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Words for Victims of Shooting in Arizona: Obama's Appeal for Idealism

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President Barack Obama's speech or eulogy at a memorial rally in Arizona may be just what the people of this country needed to have closure on the tragedy. Presumably, those who lost loved ones in the assassination attempt of Gabrielle Giffords by Jared Lee Loughner were pleased to see Obama take some time to remember the fallen and appeal to Americans to reflect on this country so that as a society America can grow stronger.

A core part of his appeal or loose call to action can be found in this section of his speech:

""we have to examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future.

"But what we can't do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. That we cannot do. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

The idealism of that section is an idealism that in this moment of tragedy Americans who were struck by this tragedy likely yearned to hear, but such idealism requires definition. A public must see policies and defined wisdom or analysis of society in order for such idealism to have any currency.

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It's true that "none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack." The people of America may never know, especially if Loughner is so mentally unstable now that he turns into someone who engages in great theatrics because he wishes to use the moment that he is "famous" to craft some sort of persona.

The evidence that Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck or any other right wing personality influenced the shooter, up to this point, is largely circumstantial or contextual. It's not clear that the mind of this shooter targeted had what could be labeled "right wing views." However, it is evident that classmates like Steven Cates, who appeared on Democracy Now! were leery of Loughner. They had seen Loughner lash out at other students and once compared a student who wrote a poem about abortion whom Loughner compared to a terrorist.

Also, to students like Cates, Loughner seemed to be very cynical and disturbed by politics in America. As Cates described on Democracy Now!, "Once, when I had seen him outside of class sitting at a picnic table on campus, I had ended up talking to him, and he was talking about how he was upset that the U.S. government had made the U.S. dollar virtually useless by doing away with the gold standard, and he had a desire for a new currency that actually had value. But other than that, he was pretty disinterested in politics, especially with current affair politics. I had even at one point tried to goad him into a political debate, and he was just not interested in talking about politics or current politicians."

What Cates considered "disinterest" was probably something else. It was probably powerlessness that manifested itself in a sort of nihilism. It was likely cynicism mixed with paranoia and frustration at the thought that forces were aligning up against people in this country that Loughner could do nothing about.

There may be scenarios like that unfolding with government in society. Certainly, the military industrial-complex seems like such a force that would warrant fear and paranoia. That fear and paranoia, which no doubt Americans likely harbor, would not produce violence like the shooting if Americans thought they as citizens could shape or influence policies in democracy. If Americans didn't think structures were only receptive to ideas from elites, there would be no need for lone nuts to engage in acts of domestic terror.

Domestic terror would still happen, but there would be less context for understanding the reasons why public officials are targeted in American democracy.

Finally, it's one thing to have views that are sympathetic to organizing against a one-world currency. It's another to feel impending doom and an urgency to take action or else. And, the worst aspect of lone gunmen who have some sort of political views on policies in America (which Loughner did) is that they take action because of belief in conspiracy and lack facts to back up actions.

It wouldn't justify it anymore if what drove men to violence wasn't pure paranoia, but it would say something more about society. It would say that if this is really turning men or women into violent people there might be some truth to adjusting the policy. There may be political movements of people who say that we as a society cannot continue unless we reassess this policy because it is radicalizing people.

Gary Younge, writer for The Nation, recently wrote in "How to be President in a Fact-Free America, "The sad truth is that even when presented with concrete and irrefutable evidence, some people still prefer the reality they want over the one they actually live in" Cocooned in their own mediated ecosystem, many of them are almost unreachable through debate; the air is so fetid, reasonable discussion cannot breathe."

What is the likelihood that any classmate or peer could have engaged Loughner on a political issue and changed his mind? Would he have had to change his mind? The absence of fact for Loughner's views on the few things that we know about could have been justified by saying that was part of the conspiracy--people are not supposed to know.

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Kevin Gosztola is a writer and curator of Firedoglake's blog The Dissenter, a blog covering civil liberties in the age of technology. He is an editor for OpEdNews.com and a former intern and videographer for The Nation Magazine.And, he's the (more...)

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Isn't this sheer hypocrisy on the part of Obama? W... by Paul Carline on Thursday, Jan 13, 2011 at 11:06:28 AM
Still the rich get richer, no jobs for Americans.N... by Debbie S on Thursday, Jan 13, 2011 at 2:09:13 PM
Obama: "we have to examine all the facts behind th... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Jan 13, 2011 at 12:56:48 PM
.............................his total disconnect ... by Robert P. Philipps on Thursday, Jan 13, 2011 at 7:52:14 PM
I hope everyone takes something equally worthy fro... by J. Edward Tremlett on Friday, Jan 14, 2011 at 8:02:42 AM