Politics of Punditry Troubling in Tucson Tragedy

I knew it would be a challenging few days as I took off the tie and laced up my combat boots to proudly serve a training weekend with my National Guard unit.  Friday night was time to prepare – it’s simply part of the process.

But nothing in my mental knapsack readied me for a great loss that will continue to reverberate through what I do as a citizen.

In Tucson, an apparently mentally disturbed, lone gunman attempted assassination of a Congresswoman, but tragically killed six, including a sitting federal judge and a 9-year-old girl whose father, John, I met and greatly respected.  

While my sincerest condolences and prayers go out to all families suffering through this needless violence, I was further saddened to see those in the media who would exploit this tragedy for political gain by blaming those with whom they disagree, then attempting to further erode our freedom of speech.

Tucson was my adopted home for more than four years while I attended the University of Arizona.  A diverse, politically active and intellectually motivated area, the city was a bastion of broad ideas and brash debates ranging from any number of fire-starter issues like 2nd and 10th Amendment rights.

What it never was was afraid.  

Not long into the night’s reports, pundits poured from out of their holes kneejerking almost epileptically while wildly concluding the Tea Party and conservative talk shows were responsible for stoking the fires of this disturbed young man.   Tucson and America, they say, should be afraid – very afraid.

I’ve never found words to be very scary, but what really frightens me is the sad standard operating procedure for many in the media to substitute speculation for good journalism steeped in fact instead of fear.  The irony is they are endorsing perhaps the unintentional consequence of eroding the very freedom of speech they so enjoy to make their point.

Thankfully good journalism and common sense are not entirely lost as evidenced in Glenn Reynolds’ “The Arizona Tragedy and the Politics of Blood Libel” in today’s Wall Street Journal.  It concludes, in part, that, “those who purport to care about the health of our political community demonstrate precious little actual concern for America’s political well-being when they seize on any pretext, however flimsy, to call their political opponents accomplices to murder.”

As a citizen who once fought in war, I can tell you with great confidence that bullet points don’t kill people, people kill people.  What needs to happen from the wake of this senseless act of violence is not the death of words, but the rebirth of the freedoms that make these senseless tragedies as uncommon in America as they are common in countries without them.