I watched with glee - while your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades - for the gods they made
I shouted out - "Who killed the Kennedys?"
When after all - it was you and me -" The Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger once stated that the classic rock hit, "Sympathy for the Devil" was about the "dark side of man." This past weekend we once again saw that dark side rise to the level of national prominence with the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). From all reports, Giffords was a very well liked and reasonable woman. She was not an extreme politician in any manner; being considered a "blue dog" democrat. She self-described as a former republican. She is married to an active Navy Pilot, veteran of Desert Storm and current NASA astronaut; Mark Kelly. All in all, Gabrielle Giffords sounds like someone who contributed positively to the landscape of American politics. Someone who wanted to try and make this a better place for everyone. She now sits in a hospital room recovering from a bullet through her head. Her reward for trying to serve the people where she lived. Her reward for trying to improve this country. The dark side of man never cares about who gets hurt. It only cares that someone pay a price they should never have to, for a crime they have never committed.
And let us be perfectly fair. The dark side is alive every moment of every day. There is so much hatred and depravity in man. People are shot every day. People are killed every day. In the same unfair manner; for the same empty reasons. They leave behind good families, like the family Gabrielle Giffords seems to have. We see their stories play out in our local papers or on the six o'clock news but rarely do we pause to consider the heartache, the pain, the entire unnecessary-ness of it all. We have soldiers fighting today in far away countries that will never make it home alive. We no longer see their faces or even their flag draped coffins as politicians hide behind platitudes about dignity they neither understand nor embody. Their deaths are almost excused away because of the nature of war and the military. But somewhere is a family who will tell you otherwise. Somewhere that person still mattered.
We are only pausing for this story because the dark nature of man rose up against someone famous. We get to pause long enough to see into the heart of the hatred and evil we look away from every day. Jared Loughner walked into a public event designed to bring Gabrielle Giffords and her constituents closer together and waded through the crowd to the front. At point blank range he shot Congresswoman Giffords in the head and then randomly started firing at anyone else that just happened to be close by. As we walk through the coverage of this horrific event, let us not lose sight of how deep the dark side of man goes. Not content with shooting his apparent target; Loughner also shot and killed six other people. The dark side of man does not discriminate based on power as Judge John Roll was killed. The dark side of man does not care about gallantry as Dorwin Stoddard died when he stepped in front of his wife to protect her. The dark side of man does not care about anything at all; as Jared Loughner shot nine-year old Christina-Taylor Greene in the chest. Christina would not survive.
But as the dead are prepared for burial and Congresswoman Giffords continues to defy the dark side of man, we do pause long enough to consider what we can do to try and push back against the hate. Do we simply allow these occurrences to grieve us without recourse or do we try and seek collectively as a people to be better? Words matter America. Words kill. Please do not try and spin the deaths of six people. Do not try and parse out the bullet through the head of Gabrielle Giffords. She was not just an average Congressperson. She was not representing an average district. She was specifically targeted by Loughner. I do not want to hear about what books he read in some lame attempt to deflect attention. The person he targeted was a democratic representative. She just finished a brutal challenge to her seat from the Tea Party. Her office had already been shot at and she was targeted by her opponents.
And why was this woman targeted? Why did her opponents decide that she was such a threat? Because she voted for healthcare for all Americans. Because she had the temerity to disagree with them. Look, I believe that we should be smart enough collectively to figure out how to provide healthcare for every American. I do not necessarily agree with the healthcare plan President Obama crafted. It is not necessarily something I would have voted for or supported. But the notion that it somehow threatens the fabric of the republic is simply ridiculous. The notion that it requires some form of revolution is absurd. The fact of the matter is that reasonable people should be able to disagree reasonably. And I am hopeful that even the hate merchants in talk radio and cable television are simply ignorant to their role, as opposed to indifferent. Because here is the thing we all need to consider when we open our mouths to provide opinion. For every person that hears us who may be able to parse out the truth from the rhetoric -" there is also a Jared Loughner.
The dark side of man preys on the Jared Loughner's of the world. He is out there listening every day to what people say. Maybe he feels marginalized. Maybe he feels ignored or alone. Maybe he is truly mentally ill. The media and political pundits have gone overboard to pose Loughner as the "crazed lone gunman" -" even giving him the traditional middle name treatment. I have watched show after show start with the sentiment that the only person responsible was Jared Loughner. I will submit for consideration that I disagree. Jared Loughner pulled the trigger, no doubt. He concocted this plan in his head over a long period of time. It was quite premeditated. But Jared Loughner did not wake up one day and simply decide that Gabrielle Giffords had to die. He was pushed in that direction by words spoken in our political discourse. He did not walk into a random Safeway and open fire on random people. He chose to assassinate a political figure so to pretend in the same breath that politics did not play a role is laughable.
Somehow, Jared Loughner needed to feel that what he was doing was right. Whether it was driven by mental instability or not, it also is fueled by what passes for discourse in our politics today. Sarah Palin had a map on her Sarahpac website targeting the Congressional seats she wanted the republicans to win back because the democrats in question has voted for the healthcare plan. One of the congressional seats was indeed Gabrielle Giffords and over her district, Palin had the crosshairs of gun sights. I am sure it sounded like a creative idea that played to the base Palin plays to, but now we see how it looks when someone actually shoots at the target that has been provided. Did Sarah Palin cause Jared Loughner to kill six people? Absolutely not. But did she help the situation or lend credibility to the dark side of man when it came knocking on Loughner's door? When Sarah Palin tells her supporters to "reload" instead of retreat; we have to ask ourselves how that affects the Jared Loughner's living in our neighborhoods. When Sharon Angle claims that people need to exercise "second amendment remedies" if they do not get what they want from Congress we need to realize that certainly cannot help the Jared Loughner's of the world to resist the dark side of man.
We have to get to a point in this country where we call things out for what they are. Without it, we will hide behind political correctness until the next Jared Loughner opens fire. We have to denounce hate for what it is. People like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Glen Beck and the majority of right wing radio are nothing more than hate merchants. They sell us hate every day. They tell us who to hate and why we should hate them. They do not pull the trigger for Jared Loughner but they lend credibility to the dark side when it comes knocking. I have heard the very twisted argument that the hate exists on both sides. I say twisted because you have to truly contort to turn Keith Olbermann into Rush Limbaugh. Sure you may be able to find a quote here or there from the left that should not have been said but there is no comparison.
I do not write politically much anymore. I found the vitriol consuming. Life is too short to hate. It is too fleeting to be careless with the words I have an opportunity to share with others. But as this story unfolded, I thought something should be said about the dark side of man that continues to get fed in this country. I found the lyrics to Sympathy for the Devil haunting when it came to this sad incident in American politics. For decades our kings and queens bicker and fight for the gods they made. I shouted out who tried to kill Gabrielle Giffords. I screamed out who killed Judge John Roll. I cried while asking who killed little Christina-Taylor Greene. God help us all that the real answer is it was always you and me.
Because the Sarah Palin's of the world only exist because someone is willing to pretend that she is relevant. Because when she says reload, we allow it. The hate merchants in the media only exist because we listen to them. Because we find some solace in the hate. Maybe because we feel a bit better about ourselves. Maybe because it feeds the dark side in all of us. Gabrielle Giffords lies in a hospital room because Jared Loughner shot her. Christina-Taylor Greene is no longer with us for the same reason. But it is too simplistic to just dismiss it all away at that level. What we choose to watch can contribute to the hate that while we may be able to control at some level, Jared Loughner could not. When you strip away the punditry and the commentary; the politics and the spin, you are only left in the end with you and me. We determine what is and what is not acceptable. We either feed the hate or we starve it. If we relinquish that power; if we truly believe there is nothing we can do to prevent the next Jared Loughner -" then the dark side of man has already won. God help us all.