We debated whether we should post the newly released photograph of Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged gunman who killed six and injured 14 in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday. Initially, we posted it, but have since removed the mug shot. You can view the disturbing image here, and come to your own conclusions. We’ve never been ones for controversy, or confrontation for that matter, and we certainly do not want our blog to become a political forum, but that face haunts us. That face has become a mask of hate, a symbol of how far political rhetoric can push a single individual to lethally attack defenseless people because he believes, and has been made to believe, that our government aims to strip him of his civil rights. That face is contrary to the ideals and principles that we hold dear.
Loughner’s apparent mental illness, no doubt, exacerbated his paranoia, but the seeds of hate had already been sown in him by the popular media and careless political leaders. At 22 years of age, he had not only the time to let it all sink in, but also the capacity to make some sort of sense of it. There will be those who will argue that Loughner was not, or is not, mentally capable of making the distinction between rhetoric and action, that he is incapable of interpreting what he hears and instead lives in a literal world. But what is he or any other impressionable young person supposed to understand when they hear one of the most visible female politicians of our era instruct her followers not to retreat, but to reload? Somewhere along the line, the idea took hold that our basic civil liberties are on the verge of disappearing into the mouth of some massive government machine, and we continue to be cursed by its negative innuendo and less subtle calls to “second amendment” modes of action.
Some claim that the negative, paranoia-inducing rhetoric is coming from the far right. Perhaps it spawned there, but now, unfortunately, it’s everywhere. Hate groups have formed that don’t know the difference between the left and right, politically or directionally. They only want to hate and will latch onto any idea that helps them to do so. It’s a horrifying notion to think that the claims hate groups and other radicals live by are coming from political leaders and multi-billionaire newscasters. When one says, “This president…has a deep-seated hatred for white people,” the other counters with, “…all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson.” Where is the accountability, and how do these people sleep at night? Limbaugh tells us, “We need segregated buses…This is Obama’s America,” and Glenn Beck, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, claimed that, “the only [victims] we’re seeing on television are the scumbags.” And we need not forget the memorable words of a past vice presidential candidate and former Alaska governor, when she announced with glee, “Don’t retreat, reload.”
But if we take a good, long look at Loughner’s face again, we finally come to terms with the fact that that face, like negative political rhetoric, doesn’t advance the American Dream, it destroys it. That face doesn’t protect our civil rights, it threatens them. That face doesn’t save lives, it ends them. The proof?
- Christina Taylor Green, 9, third-grader, student council member, deceased;
- Gabe Zimmerman, 30, community outreach director, deceased;
- John Roll, 63, US District Judge, deceased;
- Dorothy Morris, 76, neighbor, secretary, deceased;
- Dorwin Stoddard, 76, husband, savior, deceased;
- Phyllis Schneck, 79, mother, grandmother, deceased;
- And the 14 other victims lucky enough to have survived Loughner’s senseless rampage, and whose lives have been scarred forever.
Jared Lee Loughner now sits in an Arizona jail wanting us to believe that he is a victim, that our government is manipulating us, while US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, shot through the head at point-blank range, lies in a Tucson hospital bed learning how to scratch her nose again. Look at Loughner’s face, then look at what we, as Americans, are allowing ourselves to become. “Don’t retreat, reload.” Seriously? The rhetoric is misguided, dangerous, idiotic, and contagious.
Sometimes it is very difficult to make someone smile. But we’ll keep trying. Like Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby, “To-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…And one fine morning—”