Why does it always take some mad act to happen for us to then have courage – to speak up or do something?
For instance, this recent example of Jared Lee Loughner, who shot to kill Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and killed and injured several others outside a Safeway shopping center in Tucson, Arizona. For the love of God, when will these crazy dudes (sorry gentlemen, so far, it has been mostly male characters) like Loughner be detected, apprehended, and treated (if necessary) for their lunatic ravings, and wicked motivations before they carry out their premeditated plans to destroy life, and snuff out democracy as we know it?
Unlike those looking to blame the ‘political climate’ in America for what this man did, I blame the systems that allow for the kind of behaviors, leading up to a tragedy (usually a public one), to go largely unchecked. I blame the institutional -isms, and the pervasive bystander mentality among those, who in turn protect sinister characters hellbent on having things their way, and no other way, especially when it means the progression of society as a whole. Sadly enough, I am of the belief that had Loughner been of a darker hue – Middle Eastern, Jewish, African-American, African, a woman, even, displaying the same behaviors – he would have been Big Brother’d to the Nth degree, COINTELPRO style. Undetected individuals like him always end up committing beyond-violent acts, then they cop-out on an insanity plea or turn the gun on themselves. Real freedom fighters, right? So much for self-preservation.
To me, it’s like the anti-abortion activists who stand outside abortion clinics. They believe they have a right to beat a woman down, as she exits the clinic, perhaps making the most regretful and significant decision of her life, up to that moment, because they think that every life conceived has a right to life, regardless of the circumstance. In a sick, twisted way, they really believe that promoting their pro-life agenda is justified, even if it means taking a life.
These are the individuals whose names need to appear on a “watch list”, along with their audiences – those bystander “cheerleaders”, the biggest silent partners in all of this – who give quiet permission to an these antics and beliefs of superiority and entitlement. For the mother who needs twenty extra minutes of sleep, silence is golden. In circumstances like these, however, silence is downright deadly!
While I’d love to elevate the level of discourse to one of civility, I am more than aghast about this latest score of premeditated violence, and I am coming up short in the euphemism department. While many are focusing on the mental health component of it, I see a lot more wrong with it, and I simply don’t have a lot of lofty language to cradle this one. No pun intended. Seriously.
I know that we must move beyond examining the causes of such a heinous act, and move to a discussion of “what now?” We can analyze and psycho-analyze this all day, but this approach would be hardly preventive. Therefore, I’m begging the question of how we protect society at large, from those individuals that feel that they should go to any lengths to demonstrate their intolerance for what they simply won’t accept; same-sex marriages or unions, political differences, progression of women in public ranks, or the countless efforts of those seeking to enhance the dialogue across gender, racial, and political lines.
For one, we can start on an individual level. Inarguably, everyone has the right to freedom of speech, but it doesn’t mean that we have to listen to nonsense. We are also free to not be part of that conversation. We can denounce these -isms head-on when we hear and see them. We can teach our children love and compassion. We can choose to not follow the crowd, or ride the tidal waves of intolerance or hate. I insist that we become more watchful and discerning, and further disassociate ourselves from behaviors and groups that willfully exclude, or passively permit the exclusion of a few, on the basis of race, politics, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. Furthermore, we can trust our intuition when we feel uneasy, or recognize behaviors and language, that is off-putting, senseless, or rooted in a dogged determination to exact more evil than good. We can and should make some noise! Run. Tell. That!