I purposely haven't written about the shootings in Tucson because I needed some time to think about it. My apologies to my friend who lives in Tucson for bringing this up again but it's important, I think, to not just have a knee-jerk reaction.
For instance, the immediate response was that it had something to do with Sarah Palin's ill-advised map of congressional districts with a gunsite over districts such as Gabriel Giffords' and my own district in Pennsylvania. This will surprise people who know my political leanings, in particular my position on Sarah Palin, but I think the actual effect of that map was confined to its influence on the election and switch to the Republican majority in Congress. My own congressman, a good man who I admire, lost the election. I don't think Palin should have been so vitriolic in her language, i.e. "lock and load," but this really isn't her fault.
Jared Loughner is plainly a violently mental case. Who can possibly know what triggered his plan? It may make no sense at all to anyone but him. What's more, there is absolutely no way to protect ourselves from a person who has such little grasp of reality. It's why we have the gun laws now on the books, but there are always ways for people of a violent nature to acquire a firearm. Failing that, there are plenty of other weapons, even the knives in our own kitchens.
I have always believed we aren't safe anywhere in the world and that we must accept that fact but continue to live our lives to the fullest. That doesn't mean consciously putting ourselves in harm's way of course; that would be foolish. In the past few months there has been a rash of people crashing their vehicles into houses and offices in northeastern PA. You could be sitting in your family room watching television and suddenly become a victim of such a thing. You can't look at a person and know for sure that he isn't a madman or a mugger or so high he doesn't know what he's doing. All you can do is be alert, don't court disaster, and live your life.
Having said all that, I would admit that if this tragedy and resultant mea culpa from some politicians results in less divisive language, even possibly a little actual calm discussion among politicians and all Americans, it would go a long way toward uniting all of us. You know, like we do when someone outside attacks us. Then we're all Americans rather than Republicans and Democrats or conservatives and liberals. We're all united right now in our concern for the people who were wounded in Tucson and for the families of those who were killed. I would so love to see us change our attitudes as well. I'm a realist, however, so I'm not going to hold my breath while I wait for it to happen.