We must rediscover civility, and now
Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was exactly on point when he passionately spoke out against the politically charged, hate-filled, angry and confrontational climate to which political discourse has deteriorated and that sadly has characterized so many recent political campaigns, including that of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Giffords is a long-time friend of mine; so was Judge John Roll. There are no words to convey my shock and utter dismay following this awful tragedy. Whether or not this horrible, senseless act was motivated by misplaced political passion sparked by such rhetoric is beside the point.
We must stop the rude, aggressive, mean-spirited political rhetoric full of half-truths, distortions and outright untruths meant to inflame the listener. Such rhetoric can trigger an unstable person to act violently, whether or not that is what happened in this particular case.
And why must semi-automatic weapons with extended magazines and other such weapons be available for legal purchase to all, including to the mentally unstable?
The First Amendment guarantees peaceful speech and assembly. It epitomizes the values upon which the United States was founded. But depicting someone in the cross hairs of a gun, destroying and defacing the property of those with whom one disagrees or voicing one's differing views in an angry, inflammatory and venomous manner does have its consequences.
Violence and angry confrontations with our officials are simply not acceptable. We must restore the civility, respect and reasoned, rational political debate to which our elected officials, candidates and the public are entitled and that are essential to the preservation of our democratic form of government.
Pervasive depiction of violence dangerous
While we do not know precisely why a gunman went after Gabrielle Giffords and the others, we do know some of the causative factors.
First and foremost, the easy access to guns and such devices as extended magazines (clips) which have no practical use. We generally, and in Arizona particularly, live in a culture that exalts gun ownership, and a society that is far more prone to violence than any other developed country. The prevalence of violent metaphors in our daily life, and especially our political discourse, implies a general acceptance of such means to achieve desired ends, whatever they may be.
Over the holidays our granddaughter spent considerable time watching cartoon channels on TV, and I was astounded and appalled by the level of violence depicted in many of the cartoons - I'm not referring to Bugs whacking Elmer with a hammer, or Wile E. Coyote being hoist by his own Acme petard, but to groups of kids facing violent ogres who try to kill and torture them, the kids prevailing in the end by means of violent acts.
I was shocked, and suspect that this stuff cannot help but have an impact on young minds; sure, good always seems to prevail in the end, but the moral always involves violent means to get there. The same message, alas, is repeated at the adult level, day in and day out, on various cop shows.
How all this violence affects someone with an unbalanced mind, as with murder suspect Jared Lee Loughner, is hard to say. But it must have some impact, and it can hardly be benign.
Jack R. Binns
Retired ambassador, Tucson
Don't visit the sins of son on his parents
As unpopular as this notion may be, my heart goes out to the parents of Jared Lee Loughner.
Everything I have heard and seen has portrayed them like accomplices to the unspeakable acts of Jan 8. The public does not know all the facts, and yet they have already been judged.
I found a common thread among mental-health professionals interviewed on some of the major media outlets in the last few days. If an adult is not a danger to himself or others, he cannot be forced into an evaluation or treatment against his will.
Even if parents knew the full extent of their adult child's mental condition, they do not have the legal authority to force him into treatment, and neither do mental-health or law enforcement professionals. Rightly or wrongly, this is the law.
Our society often blames parents for what goes wrong with our children - regardless of the circumstances. The stigma of mental illness and the love for our children can overshadow reality.
I will not conjecture as to the family's situation that led up to this unfortunate and devastating tragedy - and I will not judge these parents. Walk a mile in their shoes.
Tucson has shown itself to be a caring community in many different situations. We should not close ranks to those we don't understand.
In the spirit of personal responsibility, perhaps the next time a person feels threatened by the actions of others, instead of writing e-mails and tweeting his or her feelings all over the universe, perhaps a more courageous and heroic act would be to contact appropriate authorities (i.e. law enforcement, mental-health hotlines, family members, et cetera) for guidance.
A simple action such as this might open the right door and change the future for an individual in crisis.
Judy A. Johnson
Do we really all need guns?
I wonder about the usefulness of guns.
I have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. I took the time to get it because I wanted mainly to go through a course and learn the pros and cons of carrying guns.
I remember a policeman asking if an armed man confronted me demanding money when I had a gun in my pocket, "Would you try to get the gun, and most certainly get killed?"
So why would I want to carry one?
Moreover, where can I carry a gun with me? Most restaurants don't allow guns in their premises. Hospitals, any federal or county buildings and their parking lots are off limits. As a matter of fact, guns are illegal on the Indian reservations that cover almost half of the state of Arizona.
If I had attended Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' gathering, I could have gone there with a gun and neutralized her assailant.
But maybe I would have made things worse. If my bullets were to hit the assailant in the arm, they could have hit someone in the crowd behind him. And that is if my aim is perfect. Moreover, what if many Second Amendment people simultaneously tried to do this?
Of course, people who have children must keep their guns locked, in which case they need burglars breaking in who are considerate enough to give them forewarning to be able to find and load the guns and start shooting. Simple.
Maybe we should hope that another Supreme Court decides that the right to bear arms relates only to the militia, after all. We have to remember that at that time the militias were private citizens, not the army as exists today.
We can disagree but still get along
My mother loved Barry Goldwater. My father loved Hubert Humphrey. I grew up in a home where political discussions were lively, fun, and loving. I grew to respect ideas, listening and talking.
I've never voted a straight party ticket in my life, even though I've been involved in politics in a variety of ways in Wisconsin, Ohio and now Arizona.
As the provost at the University of Dayton I tried to make sure my faculty and students were living their civic life with vigor and respect.
I have not watched the State of the Union address for many years. Why? It is not becoming to civic engagement and civic pride. In fact, whether Clinton, Bush or Obama, the jumping up of parts of the Congress is at best embarrassing - whether it be led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pilosi or Speaker John Boehner. Congress needs to stop looking silly. It should start by having congresspeople sit together regardless of party.
Let's ask them not to stage demonstrations as though they are at a pep rally with the winner being the group that applauds most or least.
My mother and father loved our country. They were not educated beyond grade school, but they knew what it meant to build for the future. They could debate political issues and then sleep together. If that was possible - for over 40 years - surely congressional colleagues can sit together and listen like civic-minded adults.
Retired, Green Valley
Words of a saint may hold the answer
Our interconnectedness is fact. We can create a world where kindness and generosity of spirit are overarching principles of society, as well as personal life.
These words are a way for us all.
Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Catherine S. France
More letters about Tucson's tragedy
The Star's editorial board has received hundreds of letters in the past week from readers reacting to last week's violence. Some were longer than our 150-word limit. Here we share a few of them.