It is difficult not to comment on the tragedy in Arizona. In the aftermath we have the same predictable round of finger pointing: left vs. right. Forget about sane discourse or compassion, this event will continue to be part of an ongoing political battle.
Given the weight of history though, I am sure we can expect the following responses:
First, the killer will be understood to be a lone psychotic who acted based on paranoid delusions about government conspiracies. As much as the left would like to connect him to the noxious political rhetoric emanating from the right, there is not yet any direct evidence of this connection.
Second, in time the killer will become a hero to some, an icon who fulfilled the wishes of many who have their own secret fantasies and fears about government, Jews, the end of white Christian domination, and apocalypse.
Third, there will be reaffirmations that guns are sacred, and any restrictions — whether on Glocks (whose sales, like all handguns, are up in Arizona since the shooting), semi-automatic rifles, or simple six-shooters — will be met with the wall of opposition built by the NRA, the Religious Right, and politicians too scared to take up the cause of sane gun ownership policies.
Fourth, the political rhetoric between left and right is only going to get worse. As much as many of us are astonished by this fact, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Sarah Palin have the ear of millions. They proclaim that America is threatened to its core by liberals, by big government, by socialists, and by homosexuals. This event will not slow them down one bit. See: Limbaugh.
Fifth, Americans continue to understand that the use of violence can be considered righteous action in some circumstances, especially when the chips are down and everything held dear is at stake.
Sixth, shared loss has the power to unite a society, as we are seeing, for instance, with the House resolution honoring the dead. It is possible that out of this tragedy will emerge hopeful signs, perhaps only in the short run, that differences can be overcome; that a national spirit does indeed bind us together in spite of differences in politics, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion. This power is also evident in the collective disgust we all feel in the face of upcoming protests by members of the Topeka, Kansas, Westboro Baptist Church, who are promoting a radically different interpretation of the dead victims.
Seventh, there is more blood to come. That’s the God-awful truth.