Arizona Shooting: Where the Blame Really Lies

Julie Ryan Evans

U.S. FlagAfter the initial chaos and confusion of the Arizona shooting yesterday, the facts and faces of the victims have materialized painting a grim and gruesome event that has forever devastated lives and marred our nation's history. In total six people were killed, 14 were injured, and millions lost just a little more faith and belief in our nation's security and future.

First, in the midst of all the speculation and digging for answers we must remember the victims. Fortunately, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was originally reported dead, has survived surgery. She remains in critical condition, however, after being shot in the head. Among those killed were U.S. Judge John Roll, and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, granddaughter of Dallas Green, former Phillies pitcher and manager and Cubs general manager. She was, eerily, born on September 11, 2001.

Also left dead are: Gabe Zimmerman, 30, a staffer for Gabrielle Giffords, who was engaged to be married; Phyllis Scheck, 79; Dororthy Morris, 76; and Dorwin Stoddard, 76, who is said to have been trying to protect his wife's life. All had dreams and lives and hopes that were senselessly taken from them, and it's for them that we mourn.

And of course, we want to know why? Jared Lee Loughner, 22, is the suspect currently in custody. While his motive is murky at best at this point,  a host of YouTube videos, social media sites, and a possible affiliation with the anti-Semitic, anti-immigration group, American Renaissance, all point to a troubled young man, who's likely mentally ill.

And that's where all the blame should stop -- no matter who he's affiliated with, or who he believes in or which party he belongs to. He is young man who was sick -- so very sick -- and he just made a rash, horrible decision. He pulled that trigger himself, and we can't blame anyone else no matter how much we don't like their message unless evidence shows they were directly involved in the shooting.

I worked for about six years as press secretary to a member of  the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., and I traveled with him to our district and attended meetings similar to this. This shooting has shaken me to the core on so many levels, but perhaps most disturbing beyond the lives lost has been all the finger pointing and blame that erupted within minutes of the news. It's part of the reason that I left politics as a career, because too often party lines are all anyone can see, and the real issues at hand are lost, distorted, or harmed.

Was Sarah Palin's target list with gun imagery too much? Yes, perhaps, but plenty of others on both sides utter inflammatory statements all the time, and  to even insinuate that she or any political party of set of beliefs is responsible is reprehensible.

One of the most outrageous examples of blame came from Terry O’Neill, president of The National Organization of Women who blamed “extreme right-wing opponents” just hours after the shooting. She demanded a Justice Department investigation “to the fullest extent of federal anti-terrorist legislation” to determine whether the shooting was “part of a conspiracy.”

What?! What timing to make such accusations before anyone knows what happens, and how is this suddenly a pro-life debate? There are plenty of other examples of blame being cast on all sides, and it needs to stop.

We need fierce political debate in this country, and we need an opportunity to disagree and, and we have to be able to make shrill cries of outrage when we believe something is wrong . And yes, sometimes things go too far, careless words or images are used, and we start to question just how much freedom of expression is good for our country. But most people, most sane people, can react appropriately to the images and messages through the means our nation's freedoms allow. We can't tame that debate because someone who is mentally ill takes it too far; we can't run this nation that way.

There's no one to blame for this horrific event, other than that individual who pulled the trigger and anyone who may have directly assisted him.To turn this into an opportunity to bash another political party and try to lobby for votes based on the lives lost is one of the saddest statements on the current state of our nation's politics that I can imagine.

Do you think there is anyone to blame for the Arizona shooting?

Image via brittanylynae/Flickr




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