One of the subjects I have tried to avoid on my blog is politics. This, up till now, has been a very purposeful avoidance from being controversial. I have no wish to add to any discord that is going on in the world and in my country in particular. This has not always been the case though. Years ago, I enjoyed the banter back in forth with friends and family members I disagreed with. This left people on the right thinking I was a tree hugging liberal, people on the left thinking I was a Christian right-winger. You see, I am one of those people that falls in the middle, for the most part a populist. I consider myself a moderate. Not one that falls in the middle of all issues. I have some very liberal points of view on some things and conservative views on others. But the way I voice them has changed in recent years. First it started with a very serious health scare for one of my siblings. When it comes to politics and spirituality, we have almost nothing in common, and both of us in the distant past would use every opportunity to voice and argue the issues. When he was laying in the hospital bed and with the very real possibility of him not living, he was my brother plain and simple. Nothing else mattered. Then came my own illness. After being diagnosed with cancer, it did not erase any of my opinions about life, God, politics and so on. But it helped me realize time is wasted arguing with people who are not listening and making me look at myself and ask myself, "am I listening". So I quit listening to talk radio, I started to mind my words much carefully, and when someone who I knew was set in their beliefs wanted to argue, not discuss, I would not take the bait. Now before you think I am ready for a halo or sainthood, I must admit, I still have a bad habit of getting on my high horse when I hear very unfair and ugly remarks. Particularly when it has to do with racism or ugly Muslim jokes. And at times, when calling someone on what I feel is unfair, I have been known to take it too far and make it too personal. So I have a long way to go in my own development of "disagreeing without being disagreeable".
This brings me to the shootings in Arizona. I am not thinking these shootings have everything to do with the discourse in our country, but it would be naive for anyone to think it does not contribute. In our country, political and religious ugliness has always existed. But lets look at the changes 30 years ago till now. Thirty years ago, we all watched the same three broadcast TV stations. Now, there is cable stations that feed off and promote extreme thoughts and mission is to give misinformation. Thirty years ago, when you listened to radio station, you heard music, and the days news, now, AM stations have been high jacked from talk show personalities. Although most of the radicals are on the right, there are plenty of extremist on the radio from the left also. I, one day, had a weak moment and decided to listen to talk radio. I listen to a lefty station and heard a man put down Christians, calling them names and making blanket statements. First of all, most Christian righties are very good and sane people. And what makes some people on the left and the right think all Christians are conservatives. I am a very commited Christian and am definitely not a conservative. I was offended by him. I decided to turn the station to a very popular righty who was in the middle of commenting about our President's oldest daughter who was pictured wearing a peace sign t-shirt. He was saying horrible racist comments and ended the segment saying he predicted that before she was out of her teens, she would be pregnant and have an abortion. I then remembered just why I did not listen to talk radio on the left or the right. Thirty years ago, we did not have the Internet. Enough said about that one:) Yes, there was ugliness thirty years ago about politics, racism, religion. But it remained in the home or maybe talked about in a local coffee shop or tavern. Now, all the extremist can find like minded extremist to fuel the hatred and increase in population.
I have no doubt that this young man had some mental issues. I am sure, that was the main and most contributing factor of his horrific actions. But I also hold those who have so much radicalism in their heart that they fail to see the individuals humanity. Most mentally ill people do not resort to violence. I know this personally. Most extremist do not resort to violence, I know this personally. But in this media overloaded, technical immediacy, shrinking world, we will find extremist ugliness will continue to feed and pollute the most vulnerable minds. Arizona is a wake up call. But I have no doubt this will be short lived, because after all, the next extreme story is just around the corner.