Small Wonders: The wisdom to shirk politics

Wisdom: the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.

I blame you. And Sarah Palin. And me. And Karl Marx.

Within minutes of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others in Arizona, fingers of blame were being directed at one group, person or another. So toxic is our political landscape today that no opportunity is lost to use any event to fuel our political fervor, appropriating it to foment the roiling cauldron of fear, partisanship and paranoia that has commandeered our political debate. And our world.

The left immediately and without proof drew loose lines from suspected shooter Jared Loughner to Sarah Palin's use of gunscope crosshairs in political ads targeting congressional districts to win after those seat holders voted for the health-care overhaul bill — a target list on which Giffords' seat was named. Or to Tea Party candidate Jesse Kelly, who opposed Giffords in the last election, for urging voters to help "…remove Gabrielle Giffords from office" while shooting an M16 with him.

Those on the right cried victim, pointing out that one of Loughner's favorite books was "The Communist Manifesto," and that he was an admitted atheist and flag-burner, like all liberals. This was yet another case of the liberal media's vendetta against truth, they argued.

Until further evidence surfaces, we don't know Loughner's motives. We may never know. Most likely, this was just a random, senseless cry for attention by one of society's outsiders coupled with porous gun-control laws.

But like every other tragedy in an often brutal world, our responsibility is to find hope and purpose in the chaos; to seek what good can come from it. And there is always good to find.

I can already see you wagging your crooked finger at me with accusations of naivete and rosy political correctness. But I'm not saying we should outlaw free speech or couch every form of public expression in niceties and uber-sensitiveness for fear one nutjob with a slightly mutated strand of DNA will pick up an Uzi and lay waste to a synagogue.

I know it's not the gun. I know it's not the media. It's the person holding it and the people controlling it. It's you and me. People. Nothing else has wisdom. Or at least the potential of it.

But there's nothing wrong with using a senseless tragedy to find some sense; to highlight the fact that what is becoming politically incorrect in our world is this: standing up for civil dialogue in our political arena and doing away with "eliminationist" rhetoric. If political vitriol isn't what caused this horrible calamity, it's certainly manifest by what followed it.

Is it Palin and Kelly's fault? Rush Limbaugh's fault?

Yes.

Nancy Pelosi, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow?

Yes.

Is it the fault of every tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, latte-sipping liberal who wants the government to give dust mites the same rights as people? Or the conspiracy-theory spouting, all-knowing, holier-than-thou conservatives who want to take them off welfare?

Yes.

Is it my fault? Yours?

Yes and yes.

Can you use lethal weapon imagery to rally voters? Sure. But should you?

Can you use your right to free speech to assign culpability with nothing more than a moment's emotion? Yeah. But should you?

Can you post inflammatory political remarks on Facebook in hopes of getting a rise out of people? You bet. But when was the last time you won someone over to your point of view doing that?

Can George Lucas create a ridiculous, pandering, computer-generated creature named Jar Jar Binks and destroy the legacy of…?

Sorry, I digress.

A little wisdom, that's all; a little discernment is in order.

Discernment to know that one very confused, troubled person pulled the trigger and is ultimately responsible. Casting blame anywhere else before the due process of an investigation is to incite as much hatred as one rallies against.

And wisdom to know that everything is connected. Professional wrestling isn't to blame when a 10-year-old paralyzes his kid sister with a body slam; TV shows that over-sexualize teenage girls aren't responsible when a pedophile abducts a young girl. But they do contribute in some way to our decaying moral standard.

How many sick individuals are one step away from committing a similar act here in our own congressional district? Impossible to say. But follow the string of comments on any online news story about this tragedy and you'll find a few anonymous individuals whose published musings should give us great concern, the kind of concern some of Loughner's friends had before last Saturday.

Such banter serves no purpose but to enflame and incite further hatred and has no chance of changing opinions or getting to the truth of any matter.

Stop feeding the spiraling, venomous debate one person at a time, and maybe the tide will turn. Maybe.

There's no Wisdom Amendment in the Constitution. But I wish there were.

PATRICK CANEDAY is author of the upcoming book "Crooked Little Birdhouse." Check it out at http://www.patrickcaneday.com. He may be reached on Facebook and at patrickcaneday@gmail.com.

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