MARTY RUSSELL: Tucson tragedy should be a wake-up call

By Marty Russell

Did Christina Taylor Green die for our sins? It’s a valid question and one that has sparked much speculation and, yes, even more angry words and finger-pointing. But it’s a question we can no longer afford to ignore.
Nine-year-old Green, ironically born on Sept. 11, 2001, was one of six people who died Saturday in Tucson when a 22-year-old, apparently unhinged, young man fired into a crowd of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ constituents at a town hall meeting. The suspect was said to have been gunning for Giffords for some perceived governmental wrong and has been charged with attempted assassination. Young Green, who had recently developed an interest in politics, was merely in the way.
Now while it’s obvious from his past behavior that the suspect in the shootings, Jared Loughner, was mentally unstable to begin with, it’s also obvious that he was targeting Giffords, a representative of the government, for some reason.
That’s where the speculation begins. Was he angry with her for some personal spite? Was he angry because he had been rejected by the government’s military? Was it because he couldn’t stand the thought of a black man in the White House? Or was he simply angry with the government because he had been whipped into a frenzy by the myriad angry voices out there telling him the government is no good and it’s time to get rid of everyone associated with it, regardless of the method?
I don’t know. No one but Loughner can answer that and he’s not talking. But it does raise the question of whether political rhetoric, if you can even call it that these days, has gone too far. We no longer have reasoned discussions of issues based on logic and facts.
What we have instead is a lot of finger-pointing and name-calling and acid-laced portrayals of anyone who doesn’t agree with us. Politics has degenerated into the schoolyard, where the biggest bully with the biggest following gets what they want regardless of what’s best for everybody. And I’m not joining in the schoolyard brawl here. Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers and independents are all to blame as are the media and the Internet.
It’s impossible to escape all the name-calling and accusations that feed the 24/7 news cycles in the media and twisted facts and conspiracy theories that were once relegated to the fringes of society are now available to anyone with a few keywords and a mouse click. At some point we apparently decided that we no longer needed the civil in civilization because everybody but us is wrong and not worth listening to.
I don’t have the answers but maybe the tragedy in Tucson will shake us back into some semblence of civility. Maybe it will come from Washington. Or maybe a child could lead us.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at marusse1@olemiss.edu.