By Bruce Stambaugh
In the aftermath of the recent shootings in Tucson, Arizona, fierce discussion immediately followed the quick apprehension of the alleged shooter. To try to make some sense of this despicable act, heated vitriol quickly ensued, trying to focus blame on the rhetoric of popular political talking heads left and right.
I watched and listened. Mostly thanks to the ability to communicate spontaneously through the miracle of modern technology we call social networking, cable TV and talk radio, voices and anger rose simultaneously. So did the sale of guns and ammunition.
I watched and listened because I had sadly seen it all unfold before too many times in my lifetime. John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, George Wallace, John Lennon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Indira Gandhi, and Benazir Bhutto all came to mind.
These names, these famous folks were merely added to an even longer list of assassinations throughout history, the world’s and ours. Unfortunately, many of the more noted killings occurred in our own republic. Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, James Garfield, Huey Long only begin the list.
We don’t have to stop at naming people either. Virginia Tech, Columbine, Paducah, and Nickel Mines are too easily recalled.
That’s what happens in the land of the free and the home of the brave where the first two articles of the United States Constitution create freedom of speech and freedom to arm. It is a delicate balance indeed to maintain in a free and open society. Too often, as was apparently the case in Tucson, unbalanced people upend everyday life at the price of innocents.
We cry out to make sense of it all when history has shown time and again that the reasons for shootings are often obscure and obscured. Usually, there is no clear-cut, well-reasoned reason.
Such high profile shootings demand the media’s attention because the public has a right to know and indeed needs and wants to know the details, the who, the what, the when, the why and the where of each and every act of violence. Sadly, because a crazy person chooses one freedom over the other, 9-year-old girls, federal judges, and United States representatives become the victims.
The public outcry is fast and fierce, and the rush on gun and ammo purchases shows an equal and opposite sentiment out of the desire for self-protection. Again, an ugly and unnecessary counterbalance occurs.
The unfortunate truth is, as we have learned in recent days, that these killings, usually via gunshots, happen close to home, too. A 10-year-old boy allegedly kills his mother with a gun. An adult son allegedly shoots his parents to death. An angry man blindly kills a young man hiding in a cornfield.
These last examples, of course, all occurred here in quaint, quiet and safe Amish Country. It doesn’t happen here. Those words were spoken in Tucson, Arizona, Big Prairie, Mt. Eaton and Mt. Hope, Ohio. Of course, “it” does because “it” did. “It” always catches us by surprise. It shouldn’t.
When people are free to speak their minds, to go about their normal business, and others are free to arm themselves and go about their abnormal business until the breaking point, a fateful, fatal crash between bullets and bodies results.
I mercifully dislike violence whether by guns or by vitriol, a word as ugly as its meaning. Both hurt and kill. There is simply no sense for sensible people to join the ranks of the unbalanced. The deranged already accomplish enough harmful havoc all by themselves.