Three Angles on the Loughner Atrocity

Three Angles on the Loughner Atrocity January 10, 2011

My own column this week responds to the astonishing alacrity with which left-wing pundits like Paul Krugman leapt to blame Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Right for the Jared Lee Loughner atrocity in Arizona.  It saddens and frustrates me that we are not talking more about the lives tragically lost, but bad ideas–and especially bad allegations like these–require a response.

And the responses by now are plenty.  Many commentators are saying the same things.  I went in search of original points, or especially good ones, and especially enjoyed three writers.  The first is Nick Gillespie at

The problem isn’t with the current moment’s rhetoric, it’s with the goddamn politicization of every goddamn thing not even for a higher purpose or broader fight but for the cheapest moment-by-moment partisan advantage. Whether on the left or on the right, there’s a totalist mentality that everything can and should be explained first and foremost as to whether it helps or hurt the party of choice.

Hard to disagree with that.  The second is George Will:

A characteristic of many contemporary minds is susceptibility to the superstition that all behavior can be traced to some diagnosable frame of mind that is a product of promptings from the social environment. From which flows a political doctrine: Given clever social engineering, society and people can be perfected. This supposedly is the path to progress. It actually is the crux of progressivism. And it is why there is a reflex to blame conservatives first.

If we can explain Loughner’s mass murder as the consequence of political agitation, then there is a clear solution: remove such agitation.  Then we need fear no more Jared Lee Loughner’s.  But this is foolish, as Scot McKnight explains:

Political rhetoric is not what caused the tragedy.

The problem is that human beings are cracked. What happened in broad daylight, in broad premeditated daylight, in Tucson was sickening to the stomach and destructive of the human spirit. But that didn’t happen because he was a right winger or left winger — and a case has been made for both. And it didn’t happen because the Left or the Right had gotten inside that young man’s head and spoiled it.

This tragedy happened because Jared Lee Loughner was disturbed and he was free in our society and he had a gun and he used it. All murderers are disturbed. Jared Loughner, on his own, bought a gun — we could make tighter gun laws (and I’m for that). Jared Loughner exhibited strange and disturbing behaviors in a college — we could make more laws about how to deal with troubled students. (I’ve had a few myself but a school’s intuition in these matters is rarely clear.) Jared Loughner probably listened to inflammatory political rhetoric — we could make some laws that would curtail free speech. Jared Loughner was told he need to see a therapist — we could make some laws that make people see therapists. … we could, we could, we could.

But our approach is to find the source so we can blame it and solve it instead of admitting the reality: our world, my friends, is not perfect; it is broken; we live among cracked people who are free to roam in ways that can harm others; we can’t make enough laws to prevent disturbed people from doing despicable things. We can’t, we can’t, we can’t. We can’t protect the world from disturbed people unless we change the world dramatically.

As Scot concludes: “The problem is right where Solzhenitsyn said it was: the line between good and evil runs through the heart of each of us. In each of us lies the capacity to become Cain.”

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