When Gabby Giffords was shot two years ago, I think we all learned a valuable -- if hard -- lesson. We learned that before you can start pointing fingers at people as if you're certain what their motives are, you can't assess blame for enormous tragedies that just rip the heart right out of the country.
I learned that lesson, anyway. It was easy to say that amped-up political rhetoric caused a mentally unbalanced man to open fire on Ms. Giffords and cause an unspeakable tragedy. It was easy because, well, political rhetoric IS amped up ... and will continue to be amped up long after we're all dead. But 99.99999 percent of the country understands it for what it is, and can manage to function within society's normal parameters and protocol quite nicely.
So why, after another horrible tragedy Thursday night in Colorado, in which a 24-year-old man opened up a canister of gas in a crowded theater showing the premiere of the latest Batman movie, and then started shooting (killing 12 people) do I hear lefties blaming it on the Tea Party and righties blaming it on relaxed standards, Hollywood, our growing ambivalence (if not antipathy) toward organized religion. Why has this -- already -- turned into an opportunity for zealots on either side of the gun control issue to start spewing rhetoric?
Didn't we learn anything two years ago? Weren't we all a little too quick to jump to conclusions about any possible political motives for the Giffords tragedy? Couldn't it simply be that the man in question was unbalanced to the point that he received different messages coming out of the day-to-day hurly burly of life than the rest of us did?
And couldn't it be that this guy is similarly unhinged? Disconnected from reality? Disassociated with anything approaching an emotional filter that would curb his most virulently anti-social impulses?
A tragedy such as this screams mental illness. The whys and wherefores surrounding the shooter's condition are another story for another day. There is no singular definition for mental illness. There is only the fact that it exists, that it exists in many forms, and that it often ebbs and flows within the physical chemistry of its victims. And if there was an in-harmonic convergence of circumstances that led to this, then I respectfully submit that nobody knows, less than a day after it happened, why.
So this is not a time to intensify the gun control debate. Who cares what anybody thinks? Does it matter to the 12 people who died, their families, their friends? Does it matter to the victims who may have been wounded by shrapnel or bullets? Or who may have inhaled too much of that gas? Does it matter to their families or friends?
This is not a time to start bitching about the Tea Party. We all know what we think. And we're all, by now, fairly entrenched in our views. Using a tragedy such as this to try and score points against the other side is rank opportunism that should be summarily condemned.
It's also not a time to start bitching about any other pet causes, be they the lack of religion, the disintegration of social mores, Hollywood, etc. If all this means to anyone is that it opens up an opportunity to bring down the hammer on some group or cause .... then all I can say is put the damn hammer away and show a little compassion and respect for the enormity of the tragedy.
Because if you really want to know, our willingness to get our backs up and immediately identify heroes and villains almost immediately, and paint them in such uncompromising black and white, does nothing but get in the way. I can't think of one Republican, one Tea Party member, anyone named Obama, or anyone named Rush Limbaugh who WANTS to wake up in the morning and find out some deranged gunman has blown away 12 innocent people in a movie theater. We are all uniformly horrified as such an act regardless of we stand politically, just as we were uniformly horrified when Gabby Giffords was shot, when the terrorists brought down the towers, when the two kids blew their classmates away in Colombine, and when the killings occurred at Virginia Tech.
I really wish we could hang onto that feeling for a least a few days before all the political and sociological posturing starts. Because such posturing shows a startling lack of respect for the memory of those victimized by these random acts of violence. It's bad enough that they died for no apparent reason other than to fulfill the (perhaps) momentary vision of a deranged, unbalanced person. Do their deaths have to become political footballs so soon?