Is Sarah Palin Responsible for the Tucson Tragedy?January 12, 2011
by Judith Hand
Yes, Sarah is guilty, but then it’s likely that you and I, any of us who are citizens of the USA, are guilty too.
We aren’t directly responsible, any more than Sarah is. She perhaps more so than most of us, because of her high platform and charismatic appeal. As a role model, she needs to own up to her words and actions.
But as members of a contemporary quintessentially warrior culture, each of us USA citizen–who isn’t a pacifist or member of a nonviolent subculture like the Quakers or Mennonites–has likely done our part. We’ve accepted the legitimacy of violence in a multitude of forms, including the use of guns to address grievances. Have you been to the movies lately? Played the most popular video game? Watched wrestling on the T.V.?
The very day of the killings a close friend delighted in telling me about a very imaginative story her 9-year-old grandson had created. The plot was built around a series of linked causative episodes of villainous violence, and heroic counter-violence. My friend was so proud of her grandson’s imagination that she downloaded pictures from the internet to match the story, cut them out and pasted them into a book with the child’s text and room for him to draw pictures to illustrate the story.
By her praise and the strong reinforcement of creating a book for him to explore the story further, my friend, who deplores the violence all around us…in our homes, our communities, between the world’ s nations…is giving her grandson the green-light-to-go on the legitimacy of violence. The boy is learning that the world is a place of violence, and the legitimate and lauded response to violence is more violence.
My friend is embedded in the ethos of a warrior culture.
All USA citizens are. We daily reinforce the paradigm of violence in thousands of behaviors, large and small. Even acting surprised at the harm caused by this one deranged young man reinforces the culture’s violence ethos since it is a way of denying that most of us, through our own love of or acceptance of violence, bear some indirect responsibility for what happened.
Consider. The USA is the most heavily armed country in the world. According to Wikipedia, the numbers of guns per 100 people in Canada is 32, in Switzerland it is 46, and in the USA it is 90. The annual homicide deaths/100,000 in Canada is 0.76. In Switzerland 0.58. But in the USA it is 7.07!
Fellow citizens, it clearly isn’t primarily the guns.
One of the silliest statements offered in the wake of the killing of six and the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was made by the imagination-deficient Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer:
The attack was something “…in our worst nightmares we never could imagine would have taken place.”
Google “mass murders” and “USA” and be prepared to be shocked by the numbers of them you’ll find. Something like the Tucson attack happens in the USA with shocking regularity.
As long as our culture:
- venerates and promotes violence in all forms of art and discourse,
- makes guns available in vast quantities,
- and does not spend the funds necessary to identify and care for mentally unstable individuals
the killings will continue.
So please, please. Let’s not hear any more statements about being shocked. Or that such a horrible thing is “unimaginable.”
“Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians
Is the USA headed back to the wild west, where packing a gun was the only way ensure safety?
Or is there any way for us to change direction?
Change absolutely is possible. In my recently published essay, “To Abolish War,” I describe several example of how thoroughly and even quickly human cultures can change…when enough people and resources are devoted to doing it. It’s not even impossible that a determined world community could put an end to war.
But until the day comes that this supposedly Christian nation decides to embrace and practice the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth against the use of violence, and puts our money and aligns our laws in accord with that view of life, we’ll all just have to reply on hope that the next mass killing does not involve us or the ones we love.