Grieving Giffords

Last Saturday's shooting in Tucson is of some concern to me, since I will be drawn into the public maelstrom -- at least to a minor extent -- within a matter of weeks.

I have no intention of trying to draw any "lessons" from this incident.  You cannot extract rational conclusions from an irrational event.  It's clear that Jared Lee Loughner is simply insane.  From what I've been able to gather, Peter Pan, Napoleon the pig, and Adolf Hitler encouraged him to go out and punish people for illiteracy and bad grammar.  Anyone seeking to derive a "lesson" out of this is welcome to try.

So there's little to be said for the furrowed-brow types who are furiously scratching their chins over this matter.  It's pointless.  There's no "there" there.  There is nothing to be learned from this about guns, public security, or politics in general.  Lunatics will go off, in the same way that tires occasionally go flat and lightning strikes where it's not supposed to.  To suggest that there is anything concrete to be done about this is to suggest the absurd.  Where do we start?  Banning Peter Pan?  How about Animal Farm? Or maybe The Communist Manifesto?

It goes without saying that those attempting to use this atrocity for political purposes are beneath contempt.  Paul Krugman led the pack here with a diatribe, accusing everyone he ever disagreed with of complicity with Loughner, appearing within hours of the attack on the New York Times website.  But there exists no shortage of others displaying a similar lack of tact and sense.  We've been told that Sarah Palin, the Tea Parties, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and so on ad infinitum are actually responsible.  (How AT missed getting on this list I cannot surmise.  Maybe that's coming.)  The fact that none of these figures and entities impinged in any way on Jared Loughner's pocket universe is simply thrust aside -- all of them, we're assured, are responsible for creating a "climate of hate" that somehow triggered the outrage.  (Absurdity peaked on Sunday when Dick Durbin, Senator "American troops are the same as the SS and KGB," called for "toning down the rhetoric.")

Civilized people do not utilize the misfortunes of others to push a political agenda.  This is simply more evidence as to how grubby and squalid our public culture has become.  I can only say that I'm pleased to see so few on our side of the fence taking part.

But what, then, is to be said about Representative Gabrielle Giffords' father?  Asked if his daughter had any enemies, Spencer Giffords, in almost his first public comment on the incident, said, "Yeah -- the whole Tea Party."

The elder Giffords had no idea who the shooter was at that point.  It's now clear that Loughner had no more to do with the Tea Parties than he did with the Ghibellines.  (He was, in fact, more of a Daily Kos man; he is known to have commented on that site.)  The Arizona Tea Parties, which share the admirable sanity and moderation of the movement, have displayed no particular animus against Giffords, who won a hard-fought campaign against a TP candidate last November.  Not to intrude on Giffords' anxiety and grief (he's unlikely to read AT in any case), but his remark was a gratuitous swipe at innocent third parties, one that the media immediately picked up and ran with.

What to make of this?  Such behavior has grown all too typical of the left in recent years.  Back in 1987, in the midst of the struggle to free Nicaragua, Benjamin Linder, a "Sandalista" -- that is, an American working with the ruling Sandinista tyranny -- was killed in an attack by Contras, the democratic guerrilla force.  In the U.S., an enormous uproar greeted news of his demise.  Much was made in the legacy media of Linder's idealism and his desire to help the Nicaraguan people better themselves.  In the end, it turned out that he had been involved in some unclear manner with the Sandinista military.  He was killed carrying a Kalashnikov while accompanying a Sandinista patrol.

But the strange thing was the reaction of Linder's parents.  A gentle-looking aging couple, they were widely interviewed in the ensuing months.  In these interviews, nothing of the normal response to the death of an offspring was visible -- no grief, no regret, no longing.  Instead, the smiling Linders simply sat repeating revolutionary slogans and accusing the Reagan administration of responsibility for their son's death.

A similar phenomenon was visible in the Rachel Corrie case.  Corrie was killed while attempting to interfere with an Israeli bulldozer knocking down buildings used by Palestinian terrorists.  Again, she was portrayed as a secular saint, in the face of considerable evidence revealing an uncommon level of political fanaticism.  And once again, the response of her parents was atypical -- not at all that of a bereaved parent mourning a lost daughter.  Instead, the Corries embarked on a continual and vicious anti-Israeli propaganda effort, much of it in cooperation with various Palestinian terror groups. 

Now, as important as politics may be, it does not comprise the center of life.  There exist things of far greater importance to the balanced individual -- the arts, health, religion, and certainly personal life: family, friends, and loved ones.  When politics begins to encroach on these elements of life, it cannot be other than pathological.

It's no accident that totalitarian states deliberately encourage the expansion of politics into private life.  Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Castro all demanded -- and in many cases received -- the love and respect usually bestowed on an older family member -- a father or big brother.  (This goes a long way to explain Orwell's insight.)  And beyond even this, love of the state or ideology often replaced more natural sentiments.  This was never more apparent than in the public behavior of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, arrested, tried, and executed for atomic espionage on behalf of the USSR.  Whatever their other obvious failings, the Rosenbergs were a deeply committed couple.  The few times they were together after their arrest, they immediately embraced and refused to be separated.  But none of this was evident in their other communications.  In notes and letters, they addressed each other as "comrade" and wrote in stilted Soviet-style apparatchik-speak, one bogus slogan following another.  Even their final letter before their executions was phrased in this style.  This may well have played a role in the public's indifference to their fate. 

Similar elevations of political leaders into transcendent figures normally don't happen in a democracy, nor should they.  As highly admired as FDR and Reagan were, almost nobody offered them the depth of feeling properly restricted to family members, nor did related political fervor, no matter how hot it burned, penetrate the core personalities of healthy individuals.  While some media figures suggested that Obama deserved such emotional attachment, needless to say, this did not catch on beyond the fringe.

But today, we seem to be seeing politics, and politics of a very strident and hateful variety, beginning to supersede the private rituals of grief.  It is truly disturbing to see individuals respond to the death or injury of a loved one by reciting political slogans -- and hostile, vindictive political slogans at that.  This is not a good thing in all sorts of ways.  (For one thing, Rep. Giffords' injuries have completely crowded out the actual deaths of a half-dozen other people, including Judge John M. Roll and a nine-year-old girl.)  It suggests that the depths of fanaticism are yet to be plumbed by at least one segment of the American political spectrum.

J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and will edit the forthcoming Military Thinker.  His upcoming book, Death by Liberalism, can be found at amazon.com.
Last Saturday's shooting in Tucson is of some concern to me, since I will be drawn into the public maelstrom -- at least to a minor extent -- within a matter of weeks.

I have no intention of trying to draw any "lessons" from this incident.  You cannot extract rational conclusions from an irrational event.  It's clear that Jared Lee Loughner is simply insane.  From what I've been able to gather, Peter Pan, Napoleon the pig, and Adolf Hitler encouraged him to go out and punish people for illiteracy and bad grammar.  Anyone seeking to derive a "lesson" out of this is welcome to try.

So there's little to be said for the furrowed-brow types who are furiously scratching their chins over this matter.  It's pointless.  There's no "there" there.  There is nothing to be learned from this about guns, public security, or politics in general.  Lunatics will go off, in the same way that tires occasionally go flat and lightning strikes where it's not supposed to.  To suggest that there is anything concrete to be done about this is to suggest the absurd.  Where do we start?  Banning Peter Pan?  How about Animal Farm? Or maybe The Communist Manifesto?

It goes without saying that those attempting to use this atrocity for political purposes are beneath contempt.  Paul Krugman led the pack here with a diatribe, accusing everyone he ever disagreed with of complicity with Loughner, appearing within hours of the attack on the New York Times website.  But there exists no shortage of others displaying a similar lack of tact and sense.  We've been told that Sarah Palin, the Tea Parties, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and so on ad infinitum are actually responsible.  (How AT missed getting on this list I cannot surmise.  Maybe that's coming.)  The fact that none of these figures and entities impinged in any way on Jared Loughner's pocket universe is simply thrust aside -- all of them, we're assured, are responsible for creating a "climate of hate" that somehow triggered the outrage.  (Absurdity peaked on Sunday when Dick Durbin, Senator "American troops are the same as the SS and KGB," called for "toning down the rhetoric.")

Civilized people do not utilize the misfortunes of others to push a political agenda.  This is simply more evidence as to how grubby and squalid our public culture has become.  I can only say that I'm pleased to see so few on our side of the fence taking part.

But what, then, is to be said about Representative Gabrielle Giffords' father?  Asked if his daughter had any enemies, Spencer Giffords, in almost his first public comment on the incident, said, "Yeah -- the whole Tea Party."

The elder Giffords had no idea who the shooter was at that point.  It's now clear that Loughner had no more to do with the Tea Parties than he did with the Ghibellines.  (He was, in fact, more of a Daily Kos man; he is known to have commented on that site.)  The Arizona Tea Parties, which share the admirable sanity and moderation of the movement, have displayed no particular animus against Giffords, who won a hard-fought campaign against a TP candidate last November.  Not to intrude on Giffords' anxiety and grief (he's unlikely to read AT in any case), but his remark was a gratuitous swipe at innocent third parties, one that the media immediately picked up and ran with.

What to make of this?  Such behavior has grown all too typical of the left in recent years.  Back in 1987, in the midst of the struggle to free Nicaragua, Benjamin Linder, a "Sandalista" -- that is, an American working with the ruling Sandinista tyranny -- was killed in an attack by Contras, the democratic guerrilla force.  In the U.S., an enormous uproar greeted news of his demise.  Much was made in the legacy media of Linder's idealism and his desire to help the Nicaraguan people better themselves.  In the end, it turned out that he had been involved in some unclear manner with the Sandinista military.  He was killed carrying a Kalashnikov while accompanying a Sandinista patrol.

But the strange thing was the reaction of Linder's parents.  A gentle-looking aging couple, they were widely interviewed in the ensuing months.  In these interviews, nothing of the normal response to the death of an offspring was visible -- no grief, no regret, no longing.  Instead, the smiling Linders simply sat repeating revolutionary slogans and accusing the Reagan administration of responsibility for their son's death.

A similar phenomenon was visible in the Rachel Corrie case.  Corrie was killed while attempting to interfere with an Israeli bulldozer knocking down buildings used by Palestinian terrorists.  Again, she was portrayed as a secular saint, in the face of considerable evidence revealing an uncommon level of political fanaticism.  And once again, the response of her parents was atypical -- not at all that of a bereaved parent mourning a lost daughter.  Instead, the Corries embarked on a continual and vicious anti-Israeli propaganda effort, much of it in cooperation with various Palestinian terror groups. 

Now, as important as politics may be, it does not comprise the center of life.  There exist things of far greater importance to the balanced individual -- the arts, health, religion, and certainly personal life: family, friends, and loved ones.  When politics begins to encroach on these elements of life, it cannot be other than pathological.

It's no accident that totalitarian states deliberately encourage the expansion of politics into private life.  Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Castro all demanded -- and in many cases received -- the love and respect usually bestowed on an older family member -- a father or big brother.  (This goes a long way to explain Orwell's insight.)  And beyond even this, love of the state or ideology often replaced more natural sentiments.  This was never more apparent than in the public behavior of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, arrested, tried, and executed for atomic espionage on behalf of the USSR.  Whatever their other obvious failings, the Rosenbergs were a deeply committed couple.  The few times they were together after their arrest, they immediately embraced and refused to be separated.  But none of this was evident in their other communications.  In notes and letters, they addressed each other as "comrade" and wrote in stilted Soviet-style apparatchik-speak, one bogus slogan following another.  Even their final letter before their executions was phrased in this style.  This may well have played a role in the public's indifference to their fate. 

Similar elevations of political leaders into transcendent figures normally don't happen in a democracy, nor should they.  As highly admired as FDR and Reagan were, almost nobody offered them the depth of feeling properly restricted to family members, nor did related political fervor, no matter how hot it burned, penetrate the core personalities of healthy individuals.  While some media figures suggested that Obama deserved such emotional attachment, needless to say, this did not catch on beyond the fringe.

But today, we seem to be seeing politics, and politics of a very strident and hateful variety, beginning to supersede the private rituals of grief.  It is truly disturbing to see individuals respond to the death or injury of a loved one by reciting political slogans -- and hostile, vindictive political slogans at that.  This is not a good thing in all sorts of ways.  (For one thing, Rep. Giffords' injuries have completely crowded out the actual deaths of a half-dozen other people, including Judge John M. Roll and a nine-year-old girl.)  It suggests that the depths of fanaticism are yet to be plumbed by at least one segment of the American political spectrum.

J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and will edit the forthcoming Military Thinker.  His upcoming book, Death by Liberalism, can be found at amazon.com.