Like every other reasonable person in the country, I have been troubled by Saturday’s tragic events in Arizona. It’s a disturbing reminder about the power one insane individual has to negatively effect so many lives. It was a reminder that no matter how hard we work to create a rational world that might possibly show something akin to progress, there will always be chaotic factors that can undo all of it in a moment. But something I knew immediately, was that the actions of one person in this situation were unlikely to remind us about anything about the larger political culture in the United States.
When I signed on to Twitter on Saturday afternoon, most of the comments I saw were quick to assume political motivation for the attack, and to blame various rightwing voices for motivated the shooter. I tweeted that it reminded me of the day of the Oklahoma City bombing, where so many immediately assumed it be the act of foreign terrorists, only for it later to turn out to be something else. That seems to be the case here again. All evidence point to Jared Lee Loughner being a crazy person without much grounding in any reality that the rest of us share.
So if there is a teachable moment here to be shared with students, perhaps it is a lesson about modesty and healthy skepticism. As intelligent thoughtful people, we need to be modest about our ability to explain extremely complicated events and motivations, and as critical citizens, we need to be skeptical of anyone who suggests that there are simple explanation or solutions to human problems and actions.
Amidst all the political posturing that has ensued on both sides of the aisle since Saturday, I have been relieved to find a few voices of reason. Any of these would make for excellent classroom readings/viewings and discussions:
- The Politicized Mind by David Brooks (New York Times)
- United in Horror by Ross Douthat (New York Times)
- Americans Get It: It’s Just a Horrible Coincidence by Steve Kornacki (Salon)
- The Real Message of Loughner’s Book List by Laura Miller (Salon)
- Jon Stewart’s Opening to The Daily Show (Video)