The American media has created a toxic environment full of seething rhetoric, vitriol, hatred and bigotry according to, ironically, the American media. I don't know about the rest of you, but I must have some weird antibody or something because all of this supposedly ubiquitous media poison has yet to hurt me.
There is no doubt that this winter break was affected by pain and tragedy. I am truly saddened by the shootings in Tucson, AZ that left innocent people dead and several individuals, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, gravely injured.
Why any sane individual would deem that kind of disgusting violence necessary is unfathomable to me, which leads me to believe that Jared Lee Loughner is undeniably a deranged exception to the rule of healthy, functioning humanity. By some foul twist of fate, he was given a gun and had he not attacked at Gifford's event, he would likely have found some other target.
The blame game that has intensified since approximately half a second after the shooting is almost as disturbing as Loughner himself. Republicans are blaming Democrats just as vehemently as Democrats are blaming Republicans. The fight is spilling over into the health care debate in Washington and everyone seems to be blaming the violent state of political rhetoric in the country today.
The apparently never-before-seen state of political evil needs to be put in perspective. How quickly have we forgotten that political disagreements used to be mediated by duels? Charles Sumner, an anti-slavery senator in 1856, literally beat one of his political opponents with his cane while the Senate was in session. That little outburst was a precursor to possibly the largest example of political "vitriol" in American history: the Civil War. Even since then, political assassinations have not been uncommon in the political arena.
Promoting civil discourse and language awareness amongst media figures and politicians is great and probably necessary, but it's idealistic. The major element of political skirmishes that has been dramatically changing is the role of mass media in relaying and overanalyzing every detail of every disagreement. Therefore, it makes sense that instead of attempting to temper the century-old practice of heated political debate, schools and individuals should focus on media literacy as a way to prevent misinformation and the effects of sensationalism.
If anything, the media should be crusading against the kind of unproductive partisan bickering that is only appropriate in elementary school. The current economic funk has everyone on edge; sudden unemployment and tight budgets bring levels of tolerance dangerously low. While Congress is busy whining across the aisle, innocent people like Giffords and the victims of all of the other shootings and hostage situations that have taken place with alarming frequency over the last few months are suffering. Politics are most definitely not the only problem, but hopefully this awful incident in Arizona will cause legislators and pundits alike to reconsider their priorities and perspectives.