January 09, 2011

A few words on the Arizona shooting

One's interpretation of what happened in Tucson yesterday is essentially a psychological Rorschach test. If you need to see a broader political significance to the acts of a troubled young man with typically easy access to rapid-firing weaponry, then you can find it. You can look at Sarah Palin's "bullseye" chart, note that Gabby Giffords is on the map, and conclude that Sarah Palin incited an impressionable psychopath to act out. In this way you can use the horrific event as another means of conducting a political argument.

Firing handguns at politicians from point blank range is not anything new in American history. The American John Wilkes Booth and the Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan did the same thing. Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray and Byron de la Beckwith operated from farther away. John Hinckley fired from medium range.

America's a shooting gallery. The University of Texas, Columbine, Virginia Tech, post offices, workplaces, disgruntled ex-employees, enraged and estranged husbands, the D.C. sniper. A certain irreducible percentage of the population is mentally deranged, paranoid schizophrenic, violently predisposed, and any of these nut cases can get guns. The respectable, overwhelming majority of the populace supports their Second Amendment right to arm up. Justice Antonin Scalia, who likes to shoot caged birds, has confirmed that the Second Amendment is an individual right, not just a collective right belonging to official "militias."

The political discourse in this country, especially on the Right, has gotten completely gross, it does incite to violence, it's unhinged, but logically speaking, it acts in exacerbation of a preexisting tendency among that irreducible small cohort of lunatics to fire away. People who place bulleyes on national maps next to the names of politicians who need to be "taken out" ought to be ashamed of themselves, but there is no shame left in this country, and after a brief period of fake penitence, the yahoos will again be out in force.