Blame me

15:33, January 11, 2011      

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By Luis Vega

Violence is never the best response to political or intellectual disagreements, yet violence often is the weapon used to win by force arguments people would lose by reason. It is the final decider in incendiary situations for those who believe force is as valid as intellect to silence their opposition, win an argument or prevail at any cost. Blind to the fact that physically attacking an adversary does not solve the original dilemma but actually multiplies resistance to the aggressor.

The recent assassination attempt against U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona is the latest example of a crazed loner equating his hallucinations to the public positions and political power of a democratically-elected official. It is a case of a man who tried to elevate his delusions by suppressing his imaginary nemesis. The shooter Jared Lee Loughner, a habitual drug user atheist, appears to have been motivated more by grandiose fantasies than ideological fervor. Political zealots disagree.

We live in an era when reality television has replaced scripted highly-produced dramas, and the Internet allows anyone to blog thoughts around the world in a culture (America) where violence is a common currency of discourse. Unless we as a society take back the reins of what is acceptable in the public arena, I fear more troubled young people will follow this path to immortality — especially as they adapt to lower expectations than their parents and grandparents had.

The culture of instant gratification that we live in craves black and white, right and wrong, right and left — polarization to attract ratings, provoke reaction and dominate. The consequence of this short-sighted profit-oriented philosophy is that unanchored mentally-challenged individuals can be easily sprung to violence by the same discourse the media exploits to turn news into entertainment and entertainment figures into politicians.

Another ramification of the tragic shooting in Arizona is that professional political pundits on radio, television and print are busy working within the same paradigm that created the problem to begin with: Who to blame for our problems? Instead of taking responsibility for nurturing the political climate that promotes this kind of madness, most are looking at the other side for an easy target. They look for a political victim to even the score and seek to shoot down an opponent.

"Turning these horrific events into an opportunity for political attack is a very childish response to a very grown-up problem. This is not about winning a political blame game. All evidence points to the fact the assailant from this weekend was severely mentally disturbed. His belief system was not rational by any modern standard. I hold those responsible for the violence responsible for the violence," stated Fox News host Glenn Beck, reacting to pundits attacking his network.

Since Gifford is a Democrat, the guilty party must be Republicans. As if a sane person will get a gun, attend a political meeting and shoot the most important member at the gathering. Crazy people do not represent political parties or specific ideology but attach themselves to any cause that allows them to justify delusions. Violent behavior is found in every group because it is not a true representation of an organization but of an attention hungry insane individual.

Today nobody wants to assume responsibility for anything. As if tragedy is minimized by transferring blame to a convenient sacrificial lamb that will exorcise us from being mature adults in the inception of the political environment in which we exist. Heck, it's not me. I'm not the guilty one. I did nothing wrong. It's the other guy from the other party. Adolescence politics run amok. We are all guilty and we all suffer for it.

There was a time, not that long ago, when leaders did not fear being unpopular if they felt it was the right thing to do. These are the leaders I admire because they are courageous. I might not agree 100 percent with their views or tactics, but I do respect the valor and maturity it takes to risk demonization and ostracism for standing your ground in the face of adversity and hatred. Perhaps it is the price that must be paid for protecting dignity and sanity in modern times.

"First, let me say I take full responsibility for my own actions and those of my administration. As angry as I may be about the activities undertaken without my knowledge, I am still accountable for those activities. As disappointed as I may be in some who served me, I'm still the one who must answer to the American people for this behavior," stated President Ronald Reagan as he took responsibility for the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986, during which the U.S. government sold weapons to Iran and used profits to fund anti-communist insurgents based in Honduras, violating a federal embargo.

"Citizens of other democracies may marvel at the American psyche, at the way efforts by mildly liberal presidents to expand health coverage are met with cries of tyranny and talk of armed resistance. Still, that's what happens whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, and there's a market for anyone willing to stoke anger," writes Paul Kraugman in his Opinion essay "Climate of Hate" in the New York Times. Ignoring anger in American politics is not one-sided.

"What we are lacking amidst all of this anger and violence is personal responsibility. Even those of us who aren't directly responsible; there are words, actions that contribute indirectly to these acts," blogs radio host Leslie Marshall in U.S. News & World Reports. "All those on the right who use gun metaphors when legislation doesn't go their way, need to do is stand up on their podiums and shout form the hilltops if necessary: NEVER to resort to violence over legislation!"

A Greek chorus is appearing voicing consensus in blaming conservatives for fueling the ire of the populace, yet the latest election cycle proves there are large majorities sharing the views of these conservative politicians. Silencing dissent, whether right or left, is not the correct response to prevent mentally unstable people from acting crazy and threatening those exercising their First Amendment rights.

Almost all people in the public eye discussing politics have been subject to threats, intimidation and personal attacks. Yet censorship is not the answer. If political zealots are looking for someone to blame for taking this position: Blame me.

This article is a People's Daily Online exclusive.

The article represents the author's views only. It does not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.
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