While others quibble about whether the shooter here in Tucson was influenced by politics or not, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has decided it’s time to stop splitting hairs.
I was stunned and inspired by his bravery in giving voice to fears and frustrations I have felt, and written about here, more than once. He has taken some controversial stands before, most notably concerning Arizona's ill-conceived immigration law. But I never expected him to put his career on the line as he did this weekend, following the Giffords shooting.
I feared that his words would be used to stir up a debate designed to distract the media and public from the real issues by the people he had just lambasted. And I was right. That guilt-driven "debate" began immediately.
But I hope we're not distracted from the real issues for long. It does not matter if we are never able to connect the dots from our political discourse directly to this heinous event. The point is, as I’ve said here before, that the discourse in this country—or what passed for discourse—reached an unprecedented level of bitterness and divisiveness, sending a tacit and dangerous message to unstable minds on the fringe that "anything goes."
As another politician said this weekend, we were reduced to, "I'm right, and you're evil." And as the anger escalated, the country became a powder keg. Loughner, one of those white men with guns I wrote about last year, merely lit the fuse.
It's telling that a few radio rabble rousers are trotting out campaign statements that Obama has made, which, if taken in context or watched as video clips are amusingly benign--downright nerdly, really--as evidence that he, too, added to the name calling and dangerous rhetoric. Odd thing is that Dupnik never actually singled out anyone, and didn't specifically blame conservatives as the main culprits in his statements.
Those who responded with those Obama quotes and other defensive denouncements of Dupnik and others merely proved that they're feelin' a little guilty just now. They're like the teenager who crashes Daddy's car after a drinking party and says, "Yeah, but...my friends all got drunk, too!" Everybody who fanned the flames is wrong here, and pointing fingers won't fix the real problem.
Nevertheless, Obama never put any of his political peers behind crosshairs on a Web site. And he never called for a “Second Amendment” solution should his political aspirations fail.
But I’m preaching to the choir here. I’d rather let Dupnik speak for himself. For me, along with the heroism shown by the woman who grabbed that Glock magazine, the three men who wrestled the shooter to the ground and young intern who used his nursing training to offer life saving assistance to Giffords…Dupnik was another kind of hero this weekend. Remember, this man lives in the state he lambasted this weekend. He’s an elected official, and his own life may be in danger now.
But please don't forget what he said: