murder in tucson the world will never change

According to US Republican presidential hopeful Sarah Palin, it is a "blood libel" to suggest that her violent political rhetoric played any role in Jared Loughner's act of mass murder in Tucson last week.

According to US Republican presidential hopeful Sarah Palin, it is a “blood libel” to suggest that her violent political rhetoric played any role in Jared Loughner’s act of mass murder in Tucson last week.

On her Facebook page, Palin asserts, “Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them.”

And there you have it. Criminal acts stand alone. They are without context, without background, they are unaffected by the social or political culture in which they occur.

What a difference a decade makes.

Cast your mind back to September 2001, and try to imagine anyone in the US, let alone a leading conservative politician, suggesting the Trade Tower attacks began and should end with the criminals who committed them.

Palin would have us believe there is nothing to be learned from Loughner’s crime, no significance to the fact that it took place in Arizona, where gun laws are among the most lax in a very lax country and angry Tea Party bombast dominates the political conversation.

It means nothing that, up until last week, Gabrielle Gifford’s riding appeared on Palin’s web page, superimposed by a set of crosshairs, accompanied by the instruction to reload, not retreat.

To many north of 49, this denial sounds peculiarly American, a product of the far right extremism that dominates the US airwaves.

It shouldn’t.

Anyone whose memory stretches back to December 1989 should know that there are Canadians among us capable of exactly the same baffling self-deceit.

When a man carried a rifle into the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal shouting “I hate feminists” and murdered 14 women, any suggestion the attack took place against a cultural background of any sort was shouted down with vitriolic anger.

Women who described the crime as an anti-feminist act in a misogynist society were accused of exploiting tragedy for political gain, the exact same accusation that’s being leveled against so-called liberals in the US today.

The Montreal shooter was clearly deranged, just like the Tucson shooter, and just like Loughner, he went insane in a dark, empty room, a room without culture or context.

Let’s for a moment indulge this notion. Let’s suppose Loughner never read a webpage or watched Fox News or gave a moment’s thought to politics, or, if he did, that it had no effect on his actions.

Let’s say he chose that Tucson shopping centre at random, that his madness sent him there without reference, that the fact that Gifford was a Democratic congresswoman played no role in his choice of venue, just as neither Marc Lepine’s selection of young women studying to enter a male-dominated profession nor his anti-feminist ranting meant a thing. These were, after all, madmen.

If this were true, if Loughner’s psychosis was indeed so deep as to be devoid of social context, is it safe to assume all madmen are alike?

Should America proceed with business as usual, go on with the violent political imagery, the discourse of hatred, the proliferation of military style weapons, the rabid polarizing of society into the patriotic Right and the traitorous Left, in the belief that furious talk can never incite furious action?

Is it safe to accept Palin’s belief that such acts stand alone, and have nothing to do with the society in which they occur?

On the day of the Trade Tower attacks, one theme was picked up and spread from mouth to mouth, from politician to pundit. The world, we were told, will never be the same. It was not so much a prophesy as a promise. In the horror of that day, Americans made a collective vow to change the world. Heard from beyond the US borders, it was a chilling mantra. It wasn’t a promise of peace, a decision to work toward a less violent world, to erase the motives for such brutal attacks. It was a declaration of war.

Today we are hearing what sounds like the opposite response. Palin tells us not that the world will never be the same, but that it will never change. War has been declared, the righteous Right is on the attack, liberals are in their crosshairs, their supporters are encouraged to reload rather than retreat, and if someone who was caught in those crosshairs ends up on the pavement of the Safeway parking lot in a pool of blood, that is a random tragedy and has nothing to do with anything but the madness of the killer.

To suggest otherwise is a “blood libel”.

To put this idea in perspective, let’s indulge another little fantasy for a moment. Let’s suppose the deranged individual who gunned down a group of Americans at a public rally was not Jared Loughner, a crewcut son of Arizona who tragically succumbed to mental illness and broke his mother’s heart.

Let’s imagine his name was Ahmed or Ali, that he was born in Saudi Arabia, or Yemen, that he attended a mosque, that his grieving mother wore a burqa.

What would Sarah Palin say then?

Al Pope won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in BC/Yukon in 2010 and 2002. His novel, Bad Latitudes, is available in bookstores.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Calvin Delwisch poses for a photo inside his DIY sauna at Marsh Lake on Feb. 18.
Yukoners turning up the heat with unique DIY sauna builds

Do-it-yourselfers say a sauna built with salvaged materials is a great winter project

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Bureau of Statistics reports rising rents for Yukoners, falling revenues for businesses

The bureau has published several reports on the rental market and businesses affected by COVID-19

Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. Johnston and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn announced changes to the implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Third phase added to procurement policy implementation

Additional time added to prep for two provisions

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

Most Read