Tragedy Is No Time To Play Politics

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - January 19, 2011

I read an e-mail that a congresswoman was shot that fateful Saturday. On went the TV and all news stations were frantic, yet breathless in reporting the very latest. Is it true a member of Congress had been shot? Sure enough, the graphics were screaming “Now Happening,” “News Alert,” “This Just In” and more. The “B” team of anchors gave way to the “A” team. And, in order to go commercial-free, it was interesting to see how the same information could be presented in a hundred different ways with a thousand different words. But it all came down to this. U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, along with several others, had been shot and killed in Tucson. No. That can’t be possible.

Sure enough, turns out it wasn’t entirely true, thank goodness.

So begins the nightmarish tragedy that sparked a national debate covering just about every possible political issue. As I watched this unfold during the first day, I already knew my stomach wasn’t ready for it.

I traffic in the world of opinion, discourse and information. It’s my job. But it’s also my interest. Increasingly, I am feeling frustration and impatience with the 24-hour news cycle. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to consume what they have to offer. But it’s kind of like going to your favorite restaurant and having to send back your meal time and time again. You’re glad to be there, but it’s disappointing.

Case in point: CNN spoke to a political cartoonist from Arizona just a few hours after the shooting. He went on to describe the state’s political environment and quickly shifted gears into decrying the gun mentality in his state. Guns, guns and more guns. This is the real problem. The people of Arizona have a gun fetish and it needs to stop before blah, blah and more blah. There wasn’t a modicum of respect or restraint. He took the opportunity to blast the firearm ownership policy of the state and concluded this was a primary cause of the bloodshed. “F” for effort.

Unfortunately, there was more - much more - to come.

The accusatory political finger was thrust from each parties into the other party’s chest. Then it just got wacky. Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was accused of being responsible for the toxic political environment because of his pointed opinions and criticisms of political leaders. Sarah Palin was accused of fomenting violence by using the graphic of crosshairs to target specific politicians for defeat at the ballot box. Others being held responsible by the left include Glenn Beck, Michael Savage and Mark Levin. Interestingly, the calls for political temperance came from the left urging the right to comply. However, any sensible person will recognize that for every Limbaugh, Beck or Savage, there is a Olbermann, Maher or Maddow.

Can we all be nicer to one another? Yes. But, then again, we need to use a dose of common sense. As we have learned so far, the blame for this horrific event is placed squarely on the head of a disturbed, fanatically violent man who, without any plausible proof, was not fueled with words and images from the right. Rather, he was mentally deranged and acted upon twisted messages created by his corrupted mind.

Instead of a game of political one-upmanship, the focus should be on the recovery of those wounded and reverence for those who died.

I’m hopeful we don’t find political exploitation of such a horrendous event. Unfortunately, it may be too late.

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