Violence : The Need for a Scapegoat Returns

Over the past few days, Sarah Palin’s rhetoric has constantly been brought up as the overarching scapegoat for the tragic casualties of an assassination attempt in Tuscon, AZ. And as ridiculous and thoughtless Palin’s comments were, as well as how clueless her reaction to people telling her to tone down the rhetoric have been, we need to step back and consider something for a moment.

Millions of people went to Palin’s Facebook and Twitter sites and read the comments she made, and glanced over the crosshair graphics she posted. Millions of people did not march to Palin’s targets and attempt to carry out Palin’s metaphor to its most literal and extreme degree. Millions of people have been indoctrinated to the likes of Beck, Limbaugh, and countless other people who have used fear and violence as a means to push their ideology, and yet millions of people are not laying strewn across a battlefield of Fox News idolators versus the rest of the world. For all the snuffed-out matches tossed into the garbage can that is our media system over the past few years, we have not seen a fire erupt and burn our home to the ground. Most followers, even if they had the gaul to threaten harm against our government (a practice as old as time), did not take the final plunge into becoming a murdering psychopath.

According to his testimony, this guy had been “aggravated” by what he felt was poor treatment at the hands of Ms. Giffords long before Palin was talking about reloading or putting crosshairs over election districts, and both his testimony and evidence would suggest this aggravation soon turned into an obsession. According to those who knew him, over the past few years his behavior had become increasingly erratic, troublesome, and focused on death, due to a “mental downfall” that, based on his behavior, started to spiral out of control. It is not difficult to put two and two together, and to understand that this is bigger than Palin, and ought to be bigger than the partisan bickering that has resulted from the tragedy. An unstable young man used an obsession to reach the bottom of his fall, and the lesson here is not that gun rhetoric is the root of all evil, or that Sarah Palin is capable of inciting people to slaughter the innocent, or even that gun control is now more important than ever before.

It is that we, as a society, need to finally stop blaming this and that for every tragedy that arises, stop attempting to politicize every tragedy with rhetoric about how video games are destroying our country, or how conservative rhetoric is breeding a country of insanity, and take some personal responsibility. This young man’s behavior screamed for attention for years, and we ought to have given it to him. We should not have needed to wait until he was a threat to “others” before we intervened; as a civilized society, we ought to have had the compassion to witness the threat to himself and want to help him in whatever ways necessary (whether that be simply talking to him, or, in extreme cases, seeking professional help for him). We must stop living with the illusion that everyone else is to blame, and embrace the reality that we as a society are to blame for conditions that allow for a man like this to fall through the cracks, and to only get the attention he requires after committing a travesty such as this. Only once we have accepted our responsibility as members of a civilized society, can we truly begin to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.

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