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Danehy

Tom comments on the post-shootings rhetoric

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As the days pass:

• Some people agreed with what I wrote last week in the aftermath of the shootings, and some didn't. I heard from both sides. I try—I really try—to see the other point of view, but if one is discussing human conduct and is forced to use absolutes to try to bolster his position, he's definitely defending the low ground.

Using absolutes like "never" and "always" lends an air of desperation (not to mention incorrectness) to any position. Even if an absolute can be used correctly, it must be used in a very careful manner. A person can say that he wouldn't allow the rancid tenor of what passes for political discourse these days move him to violence, but he can't say that it could never move anyone to act out in a deadly fashion. We just don't know. The position that it might possibly happen is on far more stable ground than claiming that it absolutely could never, ever happen. Ever.

Unfortunately, admitting that it might be possible is far too great of a leap to make for any of the people who blasted me. For them, I have three questions:

1. How can anybody know for sure that the shooter "never listened to talk radio," as many are claiming? That notion zoomed through the Internet and onto talk radio in record time. I don't know how anybody could state definitively that he didn't partake of omnipresent right-wing media. I'm not saying that he did or that, if he did, it shaped his crazy-ass judgment, but which position is more reasonable: "He might have listened to talk radio and, if he did, there is an infinitesimal chance that it shaped his views," or, "I know for a fact that he never, ever, never listened to talk radio"?

2. I love asking my gun buddies this one: If all other things were equal, would he have been able to shoot and kill as many people if the ban on assault weapons hadn't been allowed to expire a few years back? The veins will pop right out of their necks. They'll shout and sputter and obfuscate, but the answer is obvious: If he'd had a clip with only six or eight bullets in it, fewer people would have been shot. No argument. None. And since he got tackled as soon as he tried to reload, that would have happened about 10 victims earlier.

Explain to me again why somebody needs a gun with 30 bullets in it. For self-defense? Really?

3. Finally, for those who are clinging to the wisp of a thread of a notion that the shooting had "absolutely nothing" (a phrase I keep hearing) to do with politics, why did he stalk and shoot a Democratic politician? Why not a newscaster or a hairdresser or a guy who does TV commercials for an appliance store?

Seems to me that shooting a politician makes it about politics.

• I once wrote that Gabrielle Giffords was such a lightweight that if she passed through an electric eye, the door wouldn't open. Who knew? She is officially the baddest person in the valley.

• I went to Mass and prayed for Giffords, the other victims and their families. Then I threw in a faux prayer. (God and I have this deal: I can faux-pray as long as I let Him know in advance.)

Oh please, oh please, oh please ... please let Sarah Palin be the Republican presidential nominee.

Is she a loon, or what? She tries to pass herself off as this Frontier Babe of Substance, but she's turning incoherent right before our eyes. It sucks, really. Before last week, I was one of 12 or so Gentiles who actually knew what the term "blood libel" meant. I was waiting for it to come up on Jeopardy! When Palin used it in her video rant, it gave me a headache behind my eyes. Is she freaking kidding? Using an anti-Semitism-related term to try to cover her own butt after the attempted assassination of a Jewish person—that's really classy.

And on the charge that political discourse has become too nasty and too personal, she brought up the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. You know, the one that happened almost 207 years ago!

After her rambling "It wuddn't me!" manifesto, pundits debated whether her response was "presidential." I don't even think it was residential, as in, of this planet.

Oh please, oh please ...

• A note to the people who attended the event at McKale Center: Not even Wikipedia can mix up "memorial service" and "pep rally." Why did so many of you do so? Watching it on TV, it became a cringe-fest. And what was with the mode of dress? It was a memorial service, not a luau.

Bad form, people. Bad.

• The Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, having, in their minds, wasted an entire week of voter-outrage-fueled momentum, are getting back to work this week. They will attempt to pass the Big Fat Lies About the Health Care Reform Law of 2010 Act. It's even money that at least one clod will suggest that the outstanding care that Giffords received will somehow vanish into thin air if President Obama gets his way.

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