[col. writ. 1/11/11] (c) '11 Mumia Abu-Jamal
The recent massacre in Tucson, Arizona has shone an unflattering light on America in the 21st century. What makes this event remarkable though, is not that it happened, but who it happened to.
Consider: If the victims were average people, instead of a congressperson and a judge (among others), would you know the name of the shooter? Would it be more than a passing news item?
Such events as these have happened across America, in state after state; and unless it happened in your locality, I doubt you could recall the name of the assailant.
I dare say, it will happen more in the future.
And media fascination with the mental illness aspect of the accused seems more concerned with promoting the mental well being of the audience than any real, substantial basis for such a diagnosis.
For, having read several articles which quoted the accused, they don't read as crazy as the media suggests. Nor is it helpful to describe him as 'anti-government', for with congressional approval ratings in the low 20s or 30s, the vast majority of Americans are, in some sense, anti-government!
In fact, this young man seemed a 'constitutional absolutist', or one who reads the Constitution literally, and therefore rejected any governmental action or agency not expressly provided in the document.
It is easy to label the accused a "lone nut job", as many have done, but shouldn't that be determined after an investigation, instead of before one?
Many of us remember, (or have read of), "lone nut jobs" being called responsible for the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Or even the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma. Today, millions of people seriously doubt the official stories.
And look at the continuing controversy over 9/11!
In times of serious economic dislocation, and social instability, some people see change as something utterly threatening and terrifying.
It doesn't help that politicians seem to be sparking (and stoking) such discontent, in part to gain headlines, but also to demonize opponents.
In the 19th century, French observer, Alexis de Tocqueville, described American political parties as virtually nations at war with each other. They are more at war now than then --and mad soldiers can be the best weapons.
Like mad dogs fed on gunpowder, mad men can be fed with words: like traitor, leftist, violator or socialist.
They are like bombs; all you've got to do is point them.