The horrific shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and nineteen others (six of whom died) resurrects our national soul searching about civil political discourse, weapons availability and the mentally ill. This returns to the spotlight one of the unfortunate logical disconnects woven into the fabric of our country. These are intensely debated in times of crisis, but change very slowly over time.
We have difficulty reconciling so many issues. These are a few examples:
1. We insist upon individual freedom to purchase assault weapons and over-sized ammunition clips, but express shock at their being used for their only purpose among members of the public – killing large numbers of innocent people.
2. We are highly vigilant about border security and the exclusion of undocumented immigrants. At the same time, in the rest of the World we appear to be increasing the hatred for America through drone attacks on civilians, and the propping-up and taking-down of other governments. From the perspective of the third world, it is easy to see us as the leading force in killing others and re-ordering politics in accordance with our world view.
3. We are the only Western country to impose capital punishment, and we have one of the highest levels of religious affiliation in the West. Yet, while all manner of adult pornography and graphic violence is available on the Internet, we shield our state-sanctioned executions from public view.
In this time of national mourning and introspection, we should resist over-rationalizing one mentally disturbed individual’s choice of target, and instead ponder the larger context of violence and disordered priorities that I believe characterizes America in general.