I’ve been following the story on the Arizona shooting the past few days. Lots of particulars are swimming in my head about it. I notice the side dish of blame and complain, with one of our culture’s leading ladies near the center of it. Off the top of my head, a few thoughts:
If one person blamed Ms Palin, that would be too many for many of her supporters. I don’t know that the country has zeroed in (is that a shooting metaphor?) on the former Alaska governor. Have four or five journalists called her out on the rifle targets like Rep. Giffords did last year? Are PR folks erasing out thousands of meaniehead comments on Ms Palin’s facebook? She seems to be getting attention for being a public figure. It comes with the territory.
Ms Palin’s public expression was one of the earliest I noted. It seems she follows the newsfeeds, even on Saturday. The only reason I heard about it was that the radio was on in my car when I drove my daughter to a friend’s house. Otherwise I would have been holed up at church the whole day and not heard about it until Sunday.
Gun ownership is more about responsibility than rights. The right is a given in the US and isn’t going away anytime soon. (Personal disclosure: my father was a gun owner and I have pulled a trigger on a rifle.) The NRA isn’t responsible for videogame content, but members and gun owners do have a duty to their culture and to society at large. Ms Palin, Rep Giffords, and the assassin all share one thing: they use guns. The difference is that for some people it is a part of their life, but not such a big part (Rep Giffords). For others, they are deeper in the subculture, and use gun imagery in ways that engender curiosity in people outside of the culture. I’m curious why red dots wouldn’t be better than putting a handful of places on a US map in weapon crosshairs. Unless, of course, someone decided–Ms Palin or a flunky–that crosshairs would enliven the base. And other people just misuse the guns because of ignorance, immorality, or insanity.
The reality is that duty and responsibility need to come more to the fore. A cigarette smoker, for example, is free to light up in her or his home. That freedom extends when a gas leak has filled up the kitchen. The person is free to smoke, but doing so would be obviously irresponsible. It’s not relevant that the gas leak may not even have been the doomed smoker’s fault. Circumstances dictate that a civilized person will sometimes have to forego a personal choice for a greater good.
Ms Palin may love and resonate with gun imagery. Good for her, especially if she’s a responsible user. But the climate of rancor and violence in the country is such that perhaps she has a duty to forego her personal choice for a greater good.
Some people are understandably upset and shaken at Saturday’s act of violence. It’s only right to give them room to vent responsibly, and move on without calling into question their motives. Let the investigation continue and let’s make sure nobody’s jumped to their own erroneous conclusions.