The Pittsburgh shooting tragedy and politics

Posted on April 6, 2009

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Normally, the two words “tragedy” and “politics” should never be uttered in the same sentence. However, all too often these days random human suffering is unthinkingly transmuted into lip-smacking plays for political benefit.

Witness the shocking shooting over the weekend of three police officers in Pittsburgh by a recently laid-off 22-year-old, who lay in wait for the police wearing a bulletproof vest knowing they’d be responding to a domestic disturbance call. Two others were wounded in a siege before the suspect, Richard Poplawski, was arrested. Poplawski had apparently done extensive posting on a white supremacist site, though the article notes a black friend of his didn’t believe he was a racist. But what has been seized upon are Poplawski’s statements of his fear of Obama banning guns.

This is apparently all the fuel some on the left needed. Frantic speculation that the gun ban fears were the reason for the shooting spread across the Internet, culminating in left-wing power-blog DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas and Kos front-pager Dana Houle exchanging one-liners on Twitter, with Markos finally saying, “When we were out of power, we organized to win the next election. Conservatives apparently like to talk revolution and kill cops.” Think the reasoning is confined to the blogosphere? Think again, as just today I heard two co-workers talking about how silly it was for the Pittsburgh shooter to kill cops to protest an impending Obama gun ban.

First off, the gun ban fears of Poplawski haven’t even been established as his motive. But beyond that, here’s the simple truth: Richard Poplawski isn’t a “conservative” or a “guns rights activist” or a “Republican.” He is a disturbed and deranged individual for whom logic and arguments are convenient cover for his sick and bloodthirsty desires. To somehow extrapolate that all Second Amendment supporters are like him is a gross over-generalization and a juvenile reading of the facts.

The recent shooting in Binghamton was likewise put to use as a smear brush against whatever cause the speaker was railing against. Likewise, I am reminded that the devastation and suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina was cast as almost personally due to that heartless President Bush, because, as the reasoning went, Republicans hate black people.

Is it really that difficult to conceive that tragedies are an unfortunate but nearly unavoidable fact of human existence? Is it really too hard to ask that during these heart-wrenching times of tragedy, we leave the unhinged politics out of it? The killers and their victims aren’t players in some intellectual political morality play – they’re flesh and blood human beings whose grief is all too real. No one, no matter what side of the political fence, has any right to exploit it to score points in an argument or make your political opponents look bad. Instead, focus your thoughts on the families of the victims and pray for their healing.

Stereotypes, generalizations, and political rhetoric are so low on the priority list during these times they ought to merit no mention at all. Unfortunately, during these politically charged times, they are all too often the first things that weak-minded chatterers blather on about.

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Posted in: News, Politics