Letters

Letters 12-14-2014

Come Together There is a time-honored war strategy known as “divide and conquer,” and never has it been more effective than now. The enemy is using it against us through television, internet and other social media. I opened a Facebook account a couple of years back to gain more entries in local contests. Since then I had fallen under its spell; I rushed into judgment on several social issues based on information found on those pages

Quiet The Phones! This weekend we attended two beautiful Christmas musical events and the enjoyment of both were significantly diminished by self-absorbed boors holding their stupid iPhones high overhead to capture extremely crucial and highly needed photos. We too own iPhones, but during a public concert we possess the decency and manners to leave them turned off and/or at home. Today’s performance, the annual Messiah Sing at Traverse City’s Central Methodist Church, was a new low: we watched as Mr. Self-Absorbed not only took several photos but then afterwards immediately posted them to his Facebook page. We were dumbfounded.

A Torturous Defense In defense of the C.I.A.’s use of torture in a mostly fruitless search for vital information, some suggest that the dire situation facing us after 9-11, justified the use of torture even at the expense of the potential loss of much of our nation’s moral authority.

Home · Articles · News · Other Opinions · Gunfire in Tucson
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Gunfire in Tucson

Stephen Tuttle - January 17th, 2011
Gunfire in Tucson 1/17/11

Another inexplicable massacre of innocents followed by another
outpouring of grief followed by another round of finger pointing
followed by another extended period of hand wringing followed by...
pretty much nothing. We’re getting good at this.
Who’s to blame? Everyone? No one? We always have a line-up of
suspects at the ready.
Sarah Palin did not shoot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
When she put a bullseye on targeted congressional districts it didn’t
much help the hateful political atmosphere. When she took it up
another notch, as her Facebook page did, and put her targeted members
of Congress in crosshairs it didn’t help. When the healthcare vote
didn’t go her way and she Tweeted “don’t retreat – RELOAD” it didn’t
help, either.
Sharron Angle didn’t shoot Rep. Giffords. But her campaign rhetoric
about a “Second Amendment solution” if things didn’t go her way didn’t
much help.
Talk radio wasn’t the shooter. That they spew vitriol all day long,
engaging in a kind of verbal thuggery, isn’t at all helpful, though.
Hateful speech has become entertainment, a kind of spectator sport in
which we cheer for our side to make the most damaging accusations and
the most damning responses. Those who disagree with us are no longer
just wrong, we’re told, they’re evil. Violent, hateful language is
all right as long as it’s being directed at those we’re so sure are so
wrong about everything.
The rhetoric we now tolerate serves no useful purpose other than to
incite listeners and readers. It furthers no real agenda, strengthens
no legitimate platform, advances no honorable cause.
We have forgotten that words matter, that people listen, that not
everyone is capable of processing the intent and context of our ever
more inflammatory political debate. The most noxious of the hate
peddlers are quick to claim innocence when the violence erupts for
real but they certainly intended their comments to make an impression
when they first spoke them.
It isn’t just politics. Television, movies and video games all now
celebrate violent vengeance. Murderous gunfire as a game, heads
exploding as entertainment. The so-called blogosphere online is a
cesspool of unbridled hatred and violent rhetoric. Voices of reason
are quickly denigrated, replaced by venomous nonsense in capital
letters, followed by lots of exclamation points.
Jared Lee Loughner, who actually did shoot Rep. Giffords while
murdering six others, has been a loose cannon for a long time. It’s
entirely possible he was influenced by nothing other than his own
dementia. Five different times campus police were called to his
community college to deal with his irrational behavior. He was
eventually told not to come back until he could prove he wasn’t a
danger to himself or others. There was no place to send him. The
behavioral health system in Arizona, as in many states, is broken,
another victim of horrendous budget woes. That is in no way helpful.
At the same time, Loughner had no trouble getting a handgun or a
30-round magazine. Without any mental health referrals, he easily
passed his federal background check. That didn’t help.
The all too familiar post-massacre rituals began almost immediately.
The spontaneous memorials with their flowers and teddy bears. The
candlelight vigils and marches. The reactionary suggestions. One
member of Congress is ready to introduce a new law to criminalize
certain kinds of speech. Others are suggesting more gun control
legislation.
The inevitable Congressional hearings will accomplish nothing other
than burnishing some images and fattening some campaign accounts.
Tearing off another chunk of the First Amendment won’t help. Neither
will more restrictive or more liberal gun laws. Predictably, the
millionaire hate merchants have already proven they won’t temper their
remarks or accept any responsibility for anything. That doesn’t help.
The truth is we’re getting numb to all of it. Hateful speech and
violent imagery is everywhere. So is real violence. On average,
about 42 Americans are murdered every day, 27 by firearms. Unless the
victim is famous or the body count high, we don’t pay much attention.
Our children see thousands of television and movie murders by the time
they’re 18 and, if they have the right video games, might have
participated in thousands of video killings themselves.
Politicians will not stop this nonsense – just wait until the 2012
elections. The entertainment industry, including talk radio and
television, won’t stop it. Bloggers, crouched behind anonymity,
certainly won’t stop it.
Jared Loughner might not have been driven or influenced by the ugly
political and social environment but the rest of us are. And we can
stop it.
When we reject the violent hate speech and stop listening to it,
watching it and reading it, those who enrich themselves using such
disturbing language and imagery will stop doing it.
When we stop contributing to or voting for the politicians using the
most hateful language they will go away.
When we stop buying violent video games for our children and ourselves
and stop gleefully watching yet another blood-splattered killing on
television or at the movies they will stop producing them.
When we’re ready to acknowledge there are far too many unhinged people
wandering around without much chance of being helped then we’ll stop
looking the other way and create a system to treat or isolate them.
When we finally admit we have a serious problem if people out of touch
with reality have easy access to almost unlimited firepower then we’ll
find a way to reduce the number of armed insane people.
The likelihood is we’ll do nothing. We’ll shudder in horror and grief
and say “Never again.” Then we’ll get our candles ready for the next
vigil.

 
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