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Reflections on Sarah Palin's Statement About the Tucson Tragedy

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In her lengthy statement, Palin says, "If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government." QUESTION: How does this characterization of government square up with President Reagan's famous denunciation of government as the problem. Her statement seems to suggest that human nature is the problem, not government.


In any event, the wonderful critique of nineteenth-century American culture that Bellamy articulates in his utopian novel through the character Doctor Leete is admittedly visionary. Nevertheless, Bellamy, writing before the two enormous bloodbaths known as World War I and World War II, clearly believed that our human nature is such that all of us could become virtuous persons, but without becoming angels. Thus there is a gigantic gap between Bellamy' optimism about our human nature and Palin's cynicism about how we Americans are not "perfect men and women." Bellamy thought we Americans would be "perfect men and women" by the twentieth-first century.


Until we Americans become the perfect men and women that Bellamy envisioned, we will have to continue to live under a system of laws based on retributive justice, which means that we will continue to have penalties and punishments for those who break the laws.


Nevertheless, it is short-sighted to say, as Palin says, that "[a]cts of monstrous criminality . . . begin and end with the criminals who commit them . . . ."


Palin to the contrary notwithstanding, I would say that a number of people failed to intervene and failed to help Jared Lee Loughner get the kind of help that he needed. As the media reports show, there were signs that he needed help. Unfortunately, nobody intervened.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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