Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Arizona Massacre / Grammar Conspiracy

Accused gunman Jared Loughner
Like many of you, I have been following the coverage of the tragedy in Arizona where Jared Lee Loughner allegedly opened fire on attendees of a political meeting hosted by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Once the attack was over, 6 people (including a 9 year-old girl and a Federal judge) were dead and 14 others (including Giffords) had been wounded. According to witnesses at the scene, Loughner remained silent throughout the slaughter which has only served to fuel speculation concerning his possible motives.

So far, two theories have gained significant traction in the press and I felt compelled to address them here:

Theory A – Sarah Palin’s Political Action Committee aired an ad in Gabrielle Giffords’ region during the last election endorsing her opponent. The ads featured a set of crosshairs superimposed over the disputed district and was enhanced by a speech Palin made encouraging those Tea Party supports in the area to “reload” and continue to fight. Loughner took this ad literally, thus the bloodshed.

I will be the first to admit that I am no Sarah Palin fan and find the possibility of her ever having access to “the button” terrifying. However, is this really the best theory that we can come up with? That Jared was just a well-adjusted emotionally-stable kid until he saw the Sarah Palin ad and suddenly decided to purchase a handgun and indiscriminately open fire on 25 complete strangers. If our collective sanity is that unstable then I may be just a couple of Progressive Insurance commercials away from firebombing an infant Baptism.

Theory B – Fierce Political Partisanship has divided the country causing extremism to manifest itself in increasingly violent ways. The idea here is that certain politicians have been painted so harshly by their opponents (that they are “destroying America” and their agendas “must be stopped.”) that the general populace feels obligated to take (sometimes drastic and violent) action. This has inspired both Republicans and Democrats to call for more subdued language in an attempt to prevent this sort of tragedy in the future.

This is every bit as ridiculous as the Sarah Palin angle. If “stopping an agenda” can be that easily translated to “inflict head trauma” you want see me out much come 2012. While I am sure our elected officials meant well, I have no doubt that the “subdued language” vow is a symbolic gesture on par with passing a resolution condemning cancer or sadness.

I would now like to offer my own theory on the cause of the Arizona massacre:

Theory C – Jared Loughner is a crazy person.

A review of his online postings and personal history reveals the following:

  • He seemed to take it personally that America’s paper currency was no longer backed by gold despite the fact that the transition was invoked by a now-deceased president 17 years before he was even born. (I cannot imagine the hardship America’s current monetary system placed on an unemployed 22 year old living with his parents.)
  • He was convinced that "the government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.”
  • He once attended a Giffords rally where he asked, “What is government if words have no meaning?” and took it personally that Giffords did not answer to his satisfaction.
  • He had to be physically removed from a college algebra course because his behavior frightened both the teacher and other students.
I have heard a lot of conspiracy theories in my time, but I will give Jared credit for being the first person brave enough to suggest that the American people are being systematically oppressed by Federally-controlled punctuation. And of all the things to take personally, he chooses the 1971 dissolution of the gold standard and college algebra?

Even if these ideas served as the attack’s motivation, I cannot find any evidence that Congresswoman Giffords was associated with any legislation concerning the gold standard, college algebra, or grammar-based brainwashing. This leaves the most likely source of young Jared’s angst to be Giffords’ response to his question, “What is government if words have no meaning?”

How exactly is one supposed to answer that question? And if words have no meaning, how is the government oppressing us using the grammar that outlines their proper use? I don’t how the question was answered that day, but I know how I would answer it:

“What is government if words have no meaning?”
“As useless and irrelevant as the words used to form the question you just asked. Next!”
Anytime such a tragedy occurs we want the source of it to be neatly identified, categorized, and neutralized so that we can continue our lives confident that such senseless violence will never reoccur. Unfortunately, the underlying causes of Jared’s behavior are not simple and it is disingenuous of us to place all of the blame at the feet of Sarah Palin, partisan politics, or even gun control laws. 

Even if he was to stand up in court and completely explain his motives, they would likely sound irrational to the rest of us and we would continue searching for a logical motive for an illogical act. I fear that such a search is destined to be fruitless, plus if the press continues to refer to him as Jared Lee Loughner he will undoubtedly be convicted since everyone knows that anyone referred to by three names is guilty of assassination by default.

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