1.20.11 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
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SteveBlanchardHeadshotSince the tragic shooting in Tucson, Ariz., the nation’s media has put a large spotlight on the campaign tactics of right-wing politicians, especially Sarah Palin. Her “strategy” of using literature with crosshairs placed on the offices of Democratic leaders she hoped to oust and her war cry of ”Don’t retreat—reload” to influence her Tea Party followers in November were distasteful, tacky and disgusting. Some have said that she is inherently responsible for the murderous acts of Jan. 12. But are we too quick to point the finger at one politician whom we happen to dislike?

Let me be clear—I am not a Sarah Palin fan and I never have been. Her constant barrage of lies during the campaign and after the passage of the Healthcare Reform Bill quickly soured any hopes I had for her to eventually grow up to become a viable leader. The only benefit of her anti-LGBT stance and her ongoing tirade as a “Hockey Mom” was the return appearances of Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live.

But I have difficulty placing direct blame on her for the actions of Jared Loughner’s shooting rampage on Jan. 12. To say one woman has so much influence—or one party, for that matter—is hard for me to digest.

I know a lot of people disagree with me on this point, and I can see their point of view. Images we see in the media can affect the way we think; that’s what advertising is all about. Who doesn’t want to drink a “light beer” after seeing all the cardio involved with drinking that other stuff?

But some things simply can’t be influenced. Video games like The Sims, which feature gay characters, cannot be responsible for the sexuality of the nation’s children. States that recognize same-sex marriage (like in Iowa and Massachusetts) do not cause 50% of heterosexual marriages to end in divorce.

Yet many on the Left are very quick to point the finger at Palin and right-wingers for the actions of one individual. Is Loughner mentally disturbed? I don’t know, but I would think you would have to be unbalanced to shoot randomly into a crowd—or at anyone—and kill six people, including a nine-year-old child. But does that make Loughner, if he was indeed the shooter, any less guilty? I would hope not.

As details emerge about the man accused of the killings, the blame game has turned into a fast-paced version of Hot Potato. The Left blames the Right’s campaign tactics for the 22-year-old’s actions while the Right blames the Left, saying it’s taking an opportunistic approach to a tragedy.

As a member of the LGBT community, I can relate to the Right’s stance that the actions of one do not reflect the whole. How often have we heard unsubstantiated claims from our opposition like, “All gay men are drug addicts” or “Lesbians shouldn’t coach high school girls” because one woman crossed the line with a player? The actions of one person do not represent an entire segment of humanity.

Just look at Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church; they are not reflective of all religions.

This is not to say that people of influence—especially politicians and the media—don’t have the ability to manipulate the actions of their followers. Adolf Hitler was successful in doing just that. And in 2010, a rash of teen suicides was directly linked to bullying by more popular or influential classmates.

Americans put a lot of faith in the leaders they elect and support. But when those leaders do something distasteful, it is the job of the American people to call them on it.

As the battle resumes to repeal the Health Care Bill and as a new Congress continues to settle into their comfy leather chairs in Washington, D.C., the partisan bickering will resume—in fact it already has.

But hopefully the tragedy in Tucson will pave the way for a more humanitarian way to express our differences—not only in politics but in everyday life. We must blame individuals for their own actions but our leaders must understand that leading by example can help avoid dire consequences.

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