It’s been almost 48 hours since the shooting of Representative Giffords in Tucson and I’m still reeling with the horrific details of the tragedy. Like many I am both saddened and angered by the senseless carnage. Many, including Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, have immediately jumped to the conclusion that if talk radio didn’t cause the shooting, then it certainly must have influenced the shooter. In a political climate that can only be described as bitter and vile, it’s hard not to think so. Bombastic gasbags from the right have incessantly pounded the message home that anyone from the left—even blue dog Democrats like Giffords—are not only idiots, but evil harbingers of the apocalypse.
Truthfully, though, Arizona is a state with many, many problems. While the rest of the nation slowly is beginning an economic recovery, real estate values in Arizona continue to fall. Unemployment has not improved here. The economy is in shambles. Arizona scores 49th in public school education rankings. Mental healthcare here is virtually nonexistent. A fanatical Wild West gun culture rides unfettered. The state is buried in debt and deeper budget cuts are looming. Yet one party controls the state’s legislature virtually unopposed and unchecked. The rabid immigration debate is only a symptom of a state that is feeling the strain of a new economy that is imploding.
Any one or all of these factors could have easily pushed a troubled, mentally unstable young man off the brink.
We are living in an age of incivility. Schools no longer teach etiquette. Manners, respect and honor codes are relics of the past. Freedom of speech was come to mean the right to shout your own views at the top of your lungs like a spoiled kid who shouts louder and louder while holding his hands over his ears so he doesn’t have to hear anything but his own screaming,
The internet has made us anonymous, opinionated and rude. A daily scanning of the comments after political and sports articles in the Arizona Republic always leaves me shaking my head and troubled to the bone. How can people be so vicious over an opinion expressed about a sports team? Let alone a political point?
Arizona’s problems are basically the same as America’s. Until we gain some measure of civility, respect and honor in our society, until we improve our education and health care systems, until we stop worshiping violence and the tools that enable it, we will continue to see these tragedies.
Welcome to Arizona.