January 21, 2010

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if we could avoid the blame game? Apparently it just isn't in our blood to shun this inherent need to assign accountability for things that go wrong in this world.

I suspect most of us could live with it, if culpability was simply attached to the guilty party. Or perhaps if the finger was pointed at someone truly blameworthy like, to borrow a phrase from Dana Carvey's Church Lady character and Saturday Night Live fame, "Could it be.... Satan?"

Instead, it seems like tragedies such as the recent assassination attempt of a U.S. Representative in Arizona are hijacked by every opportunistic advocate in the world in an effort to promote his or her personal cause. These political carpetbaggers try to play on the obvious emotions generated by such heartbreak with the hopes that the masses will blindly rush to join in the condemnation of anyone that can have even the slightest tint of blame attributed to them.

Now, I'm no Sarah Palin fan. As a person that has chosen to wade right into political theater, I would argue she has attached the "target" to herself for nearly all the criticism she takes.

But apparently in light of the current tragedy in Arizona, it is now politically incorrect to label any government official a target, regardless of what is on the other end of the "crosshairs."

Just hours after an insane gunman shot and killed a federal judge, a nine-year-old girl and several others while critically wounding his believed target, U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the blame game had already begun.

Someone should have pointed out that rule about assuming, you know the one that reminds us that speaking before we have all of the facts can often make a donkey out of both you and me (I always thought that was pretty creative to find such a valid point spelled out right there in the word itself.)

As quick as the news spread about the tragedy, the blame game had begun. The initial assumption was that the shooting was somehow politically motivated. Apparently since Giffords is a Democrat, that led some folks to presume that her shooter, a 22-year-old man, had to be some right-wing extremist.

Then the dots got stretched even further as these would-be experts reminded folks of the past campaign adds funded by Palin's political action committee that had targeted a number of congressional districts across the United States, including Giffords, as areas where Republicans could gain seats in the past election. Those ads literally put the crosshairs on these targets.

So the armchair quarterbacks out there that assumed the shooting was politically motivated quickly pointed the finger at Palin because of the group's advertising.

To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite shows, Monday Night Football, "Come on man!" While Tom Jackson, Chris Berman and crew direct their shouts of sarcastic disbelief at the past week's football foul ups, it seems fitting in this forum as well. The sports world and the political world both often use war terminology. "The Tigers drew first blood in Friday's game..." or "The Republicans are targeting a number of seats in battleground states...."

I'm curious to see if freedom of speech will be a victim, which would be ironic considering the apparently insane assassin was reportedly driven by a grammar fixation.

But who cares if the shooter was mentally ill? It is far easier to shove aside the facts and blame the gun, the company that sold the gun, the political advertisers that had the audacity to "target" their opponents for defeat, the Tea Party, Fox News, Santa Claus...

Nearly as disheartening for me as the blame game, is the knee jerk fixes that spring up from the ashes of tragedy.

According to Politics Daily, Representative Robert Brady, D-Pa., reportedly is planning to introduce legislation making it a federal crime for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a member of Congress or a federal official.

MSNBC is reporting that Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., are preparing legislation to outlaw the sale of high-capacity magazines such as the one that was used allegedly in the Arizona shooting.

Is that all we got - slap on a few Band-Aids and look around for anyone we can try to make look guilty? Come on man!

As Ronald Reagan so eloquently said "We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions."

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