On Saturday morning, when I heard the news about the shooting, I was upset.
Like everyone else in the United States (and many abroad, I’m sure) I clung to the nearest news sources for the next three days. I watched the press conference where the Pima County Sheriff fought back tears and railed on the rhetoric that has made American news media into entertainment media. I watched Gabrielle Gifford’s trio of doctors troop onto a stage with their heads low and tell us that they were cautiously optimistic about the congresswoman’s recovery. On the radio, they shared the interview with Bill Hileman, whose wife, Susie, was calling out in her painkiller dreams for the nine year old girl she tried to save. “I’m not sure that she knows Christina is dead,” he said. “She keeps saying things like, Christina, Christina, let’s get out of here, let’s get out of here. She keeps talking about the holding of hands.”* I cried in the car, and didn’t even stop when the conversation moved on towards gun control in Arizona.
In the past several days, though, that sadness has begun to twist and morph into something else. Something that was not quite sadness but still gnawing and painful. I mistook that for anger for a while. I looked at the nonsense with the Westboro Baptist Church and the horrible, horrible mugshot of Jared Lee Loughner, with that nauseating smirk on his face, and I felt that deep burn in the pit of my stomach, but such behavior, while not acceptable, can be expected of idiots and crazy people. So I sought out like-minded folks, others who were grieving for souls they didn’t know.
I started reading the comments below the news articles, which is, anyone can tell you, always a mistake. The hatred spewed there is undeniably poisonous. One woman said that for the sake of the children, all ‘liberal lunatics’ should be locked up. On an article about Jared Lee Loughner’s poor behavior in the classroom, the top comment was, “He shouted out? Like JOE WILSON?????” He read the Communist Manifesto, so he’s liberal. He was obsessed with government control and the constitution, so he’s conservative. Sarah Palin made him do it. Obama made him do it. The more I read, the more that terrible feeling grew. People were latching onto details, things like Loughner’s home page or a certain word he used in a YouTube video and firing them off at the opposition in an intent to wound and kill.
Reading those comments clarified my emotions enormously.
I am disgusted.
That’s the word. Disgusted. Utterly and completely disgusted. I am embarrassed on behalf of the airwaves, of the editorial pages, of the rows and rows of comments vomiting vile uninformed blame all over the place. The photograph of that nine year old girl, is being thrown around like confetti, accompanying every opinion piece, as though daring you to disagree. Her death, tragic and completely senseless, is being used as a weapon to gain a political foothold.
It’s true that there are things in our country that need fixing, and yes, our rhetoric is high on the list. The black-and-white, end-of-the-world tone of our congress and news media is divisive and unnecessary. It is crucial that the United States have that conversation, and make changes.
But not like this.
I’m tired of seeing grief used as a cheap ploy to ‘one-up the other side’. This isn’t about pointing fingers. This isn’t about who we can shame or drive out of office. This isn’t about who said bad things and who said the worst things. It’s about the insane and deranged loss of life, and that’s all.
I actually saw, on one article, a debate in which the commenters screamed, “CHRISTINA GREEN WOULD HAVE BEEN A REPUBLICAN!” and in response, “NO, CHRISTINA GREEN WOULD HAVE BEEN A DEMOCRAT!”
Christina Green would have been an adult.
And we should try to be, too.