Without doubt the Arizona shooting is a tragedy for the entire nation. I cannot imagine the grief of those directly effected.
As citizens it is important to be responsibly informed, so we watch the news on television, read live coverage on the Internet and Twitter feeds. How do we balance all that overabundunce of data with our gut reaction to what we are taking in?
It is a human reaction to try to make a tragedy conform to something that we can understand. In my post about the Fort Hood shootings I wrote:
"In our efforts to wrap our brains around a senseless event, we look for cause and effect. We desperately want to to see if we could have prevented it somehow. It's only human to wish to control. Unfortunately that process can mean demonizing the perpetrator, making him a monster, something, anything, 'not me.'"
Already the hype is forming around making the gunman of the Arizona shooting a "crazy" mentally ill maniac who smoked pot. I hate how whenever there is horrible incident we are so quick to label those responsible as "mentally ill." Maybe it's because I work so hard to debunk the stigma of mental illness and to support those who seek counseling when they need help. This kind of coverage feels like a gazillion steps backward.
The same thing occured after the Columbine shootings. The shooters were quickly vilified as dark Goth loners, creepy outsiders who didn't 'fit in,' the victims of bullying by the popular kids. Later, after experts had time to research the backgrounds of the two boys who opened fire on their classmates and teachers, another picture emerged. You can learn more by reading this article, Ten Years Later, the real story behind Columbine.
The danger of the availability of twenty-four hour media is that stuff gets reported without the thorough vetting that responsible jouranlism is required to do. That's happening right now with the Arizona shooting.
I am only asking that we not compound the horror by jumping to unsupported conclusions about who is responsible, what caused him to do what he did and how we can separate ourselves from our part. It does not honor the injured and dead to generate more hate. Let's expect justice with compassion and responsibly learn what we can so that it never happens again.