Sunday, January 23, 2011

Trigger-happy democracy

Freedom and access to public officials has its ups and downs. While it is a tremendous privilege to be able to approach those who represent us, terror can be the result when a person exploits that.

Democracy at its worst was on display recently when a gunman attempted to assassinate an Arizona congresswoman. Though she survived, six others died including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl.

What began as a casual meet-and-greet ended terribly because one person gave into evil and decided to be an executioner.

For some, putting a seemingly senseless act like this into perspective can be difficult. However, if we all remember that evil exists, then terrible events like this can make sense.

Our society tries to water down what evil is. As our society continues to fragment, evil will be one of the guiding forces in how America proceeds. That may sound like a downer, but it is the truth.

Since the shooting, law enforcement personnel and the media have been digging into the life of the assassin. At the very least, he appears to be a very troubled person, and there were warning signs that he might have an outburst at some point.

With any major political incident, there will always be a lot of finger pointing regarding who or what was responsible for this.

Unfortunately, some have tried to exploit this tragedy by blaming conservatives and the rhetoric they use.

For example, criticism of one Republican group was that they used gun "crosshairs" on web sites during last year’s mid-term elections. The symbols were meant to highlight Democrats that were thought to be vulnerable in the election and were being "targeted" for possible defeat.

The critics stated the use of such symbols might have inspired the shooter to interpret the Republican message literally and take up arms.

Of course, this type of symbolism has been used repeatedly through the years by both Democrats and Republicans during campaigns.

The criticism of the Republicans in this case was a really low blow. However, it should not surprise us.

The bottom line is both the Democratic and Republican parties have fringe elements who will exploit any situation to advance their point of view.

It would be laughable if either party tried to deny that. As important as our political process is, there will always be a very small minority of people that will use slime as a weapon to achieve their agenda.

Whether it is claiming President Obama is not really an American citizen or making a movie depicting the assassination of former President Bush, there will always be people wanting to push the envelope.

However, there is one important point we must keep in mind.

Though the attack in Arizona is a tragedy, we must all understand that it should not keep us from being critical of our government. And sometimes we have to use strong words or actions to criticize our representatives.

As we have recently seen, there are good and bad ways to do that. We must remain committed to being politically involved, but we must do so in the most dignified way possible.

The primary reason we find ourselves in the mess we are in now is because of the apathy of the public.

After all, a large portion of those who are eligible to vote fail to do so. Their reasons vary. Some just do not care while others have grown so discouraged that they do not believe they can have an impact on what our government is doing.

However, we must continue to speak out. Harsh words can be delivered in a dignified way.

Our political process depends on us.

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