Letters to Holly

Wednesday, January 12

Thoughts on Tucson (Again)

I like the idea of continuing the decal decor as the deputy ages. Those images are cool.

We watched the Monday installment of the Daily Show, featuring Stewart's request for a change of rhetoric so we can distinguish discourse from insane ramblings.

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And then we talked for a bit.

Our points:
1) Politicians used to kiss babies. Now they wield guns. Guns have become the symbol of political expression in a country founded on election cycles moderating revolution. When you can vote and impeach and recall, you don't have to take up arms against your government. But the notion that the government is within minutes of instigating martial law is too profitable for those who woo audiences with fear and paranoia. The NRA contacted me just within the last two weeks to ask for my help against a mythical nationwide gun ban to be magically imposed by the United Nations.

The 2010 campaign featured fundraiser events where voters could shoot machine guns, sometimes with the candidate. Healthcare protesters carried guns to town hall meetings, allegedly to prove their political firepower.This latest asshole, this shooter, he did exactly the same thing: He took a gun to a political event. And until the second he pulled the trigger, he's supported by those who advocate "gun rights." But when he fired, he magically became crazy and dangerous. I argue he was dangerous before that.

I'm for hunters owning hunting rifles. I'm for collectors buying replicas. But handguns are designed for mobility and quick fire. Cops can have them (cops can have anything, frankly), and sky marshals should have them. Law enforcement, I'm talking here. Personal citizens don't need concealed handguns. The boogieman of rogue cops or federal military coming to your house won't be stopped by handguns, which is why the NRA supports automatic rifles and machine gun ownership. Look, if the military is coming for you, they don't have to knock on your door. They have bombs. They have drones, missiles, chemicals, and snipers. Gun advocates learned a lot from Waco. So did the federal agents.

2) Crazy is relative. Your Sister noted the special-ed kids she teaches. They are separated from the majority student body schedules and criteria because they can't handle expectations. This stunted ability to handle mundane tasks could easily classify them as limited to the same degree a crazy gunman. He was able to hire a cab to drive to the event, and he walked in with the cabbie to the store to break a $20. He managed to keep his composure until he aimed the gun. He wasn't a drooling, flailing maniac. His past behavior suggests at least an eccentricity, delusions, and antisocial demeanor that kept him marginalized and angry. But that's not "crazy." Sullen, perhaps. Emo, maybe. A jerk to the fifth power, I'll grant you.

So what makes him crazy, and for how long does the definition of crazy stretch back along his personal chronology from the gunshots? Was he crazy on Friday? Last year?

"Crazy" is a convenient label. It suggests that he would go violent and irrational no matter what environment he dwelt in. That relieves some burden of introspection from those who may have been even indirectly influential, those who threw our violent imagery during the recent campaigns. And I agree that he's directly responsible. He's not a robot. He chose his target and the manner of attack. But why didn't this happen before? Why now? Why this way? He had a YouTube page, Facebook, and MySpace. He was connected and swimming online among us. He had the same access to the rhetoric and the means to debate it online. He was plugged in. I consider that exposure and environs critical to his thinking.

But if "crazy will out" regardless of influence, I think we then have to park all accusations of influential media. If craziness trumps environmental factors, then drugs, heavy metal, the lack of prayer in schools, ready access to abortions, and all the other bugaboos have to be shelved. They can, by argument, be no more responsible for violence and a decline in civilization than constant angry. political accusations on the various media.

Also, handguns can't help you against the crazy. If "crazy will out," as if the crazed are invulnerable zombies, concealed weapons can't save you from the faceless enemy. Also, a concealed weapon wouldn't have kept the first bullet from hitting home. Maybe not even the third and fourth. A concealed weapon can only respond. It can't prevent. The argument for concealed weapons claims that the threat of retaliatory gunfire would deter the mugger or burglar. Except, of course, for the crazy, right? They're crazy; they don't operate under the logic we do.

The new argument seems to be this: In a gun culture permeated with angry accusations, everyone knew to behave themselves except for the village idiot. Someone how the one loony who couldn't distinguish rhetoric from identification grabbed his gun and went to town. Again this doesn't excuse those who construct the pollution. If anything, it should behoove them to be more mature in their product. Media broadcasts are global migrations now. The perceived audience has to expand beyond the key demographic. Even I, with this blog, am talking to you but can be, and am, accessed around the world. That's why I use "Your Sister" instead of naming her. I don't trust everyone who might read this to respect her privacy. So I filter. The possible audience reactions affects my communications. It's not limiting. It requires me to be more clever without diluting my message.

We live in a nation of mass shootings. The audience doesn't just include people who grok your intent. The violent and dangerous are among us and breathing the same air. It's senseless to pretend verbal vehemence can't wind up the easily swayed. I mean, the easily swayed are a key demo. They'll buy without thinking, they'll subscribe without considering, they'll act without doubting. Does that make them crazy? All of them? If you court the gullible, you can't then pretend your audience is devoid of them.

3) What do we want to happen now? Well, I'm not for Congress folk arming themselves. We don't need to return to dueling legislators. People attack the Capitol or the White House often, and security protects the lawmakers. As they should. (And for those who are for small government but want to beef up personal security, how do you pay for that?) The local police should work the appearances of politicians in official events. The Tucson appearance wasn't a fundraiser; it was a casual town hall meeting. The police are trained to respond and protect. Let them do their jobs.

I suppose I want the constant media to take a breath and look at itself. Not that they aren't already a narcissistic bunch. Half the job is branding and marketing, after all. But I want people to consider that we need to scale back the tone. We need to talk like adults. That's going to end the careers of some professional bomb throwers, but that's a small price to pay. If all they can do is insult people to make a living, get off the political shows and do stand-up. There's a legit arena for that kind of talk, and rare is the comic whose incited violence.

But let's remember that "inciting" exists a legal term for a reason. Words can be regarded as accountable.The "fire in the theatre" hypothetical is a classic example of inflammatory language, pardon the pun. It's not simply a concept for political gamesmanship. Intentional or not, those swayed are just that: swayed. Let's stop pretending we're all on the same frequency. Even my limited experience as a dad has already told me I'm gonna have to watch the language among kids. They don't know better than to recite. It's not just clear-thinking mature people tuning in out there. There's some dangerous fuses easily sparked.

We talked for about an hour about this, and we commented on how we hope to have responded at that event. I'd like to think I would incapacitate him for the authorities to retrieve. But if I saw him shooting people, I admit, I'd be violently angry. I'm pretty sure he expected to be killed on site. I wonder if he feels lucky to be alive. I wonder if he feels, period. I wonder the same about those who have taken a defensive stance amid the reactions. We're not looking to blame. We're looking to salvage.

Picture of the Day
And then we watched an all-robot cast re-enact Dynasty catfights. Alexisbot9 just clocked 6Crystal-12.

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