Thoughts on the Tucson Murders

by Government Liaison Rhett Butler

As you know, on Saturday, January 8, 2011, 22-year-old Jerad Loughner shot 20 people attending Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ “Congress On Your Corner” event in Tucson, Arizona. Congresswoman Giffords was shot through the head and survived, but six other victims tragically died, including nine-year-old Christina Green, federal district judge John Roll, an aide to Congresswoman Gifford, and three constituents attending the event. They were husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, and dear friends.

We all feel deep sadness for the human pain and loss caused by one, deeply troubled young man. Most Americans also struggle to make sense of what drove Jerad Loughner to murder innocent men, women, and children. Only madmen (not the AMC Don Draper type) commit this kind of pre-meditated, vicious attack on innocent human beings, right? Or is there something or someone else at fault?

The New York Time’s Paul Krugman and Pima County Sherriff Clarence Dupnik would like you to believe that the rhetoric and symbolism of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and the tea party movement are to blame, but there’s no evidence of any political ideology at play. As politicians and social scientists struggle to make sense of this violence, we know the full story behind the news reports and rhetoric—we live in a broken, fallen world that is marred by sin.

One overwhelming fact in this tragedy is that Jerad Loughner suffers from a serious mental illness. Many of you witness the destructiveness of mental illness each day at your missions. The results of a detachment from reality and relational poverty are devastating. Sadly, the story turned from the shooting’s human toll to the battle in the media over fiery political speech and attempts to pin fault on conservative figures and the tea party movement.

There is no doubt that words and rhetoric have consequences, but this kind of political opportunism is distasteful. The truth is that political discourse has always had an uncivil side. Americans engage in political “warfare” so that we don’t have to engage in the kind of actual bloody warfare that shapes the politics of so many other nations around the world. In the end, mankind can never be perfected, much to the dismay of many in politics. There aren’t enough mental health programs, gun control laws, or legal curbs on political rhetoric on earth to rid us of disturbed human beings who are willing commit violence against other humans.

The shootings and murders in Tucson are fundamentally about human beings and the nature of sin, not political partisanship. When a person, in this case, a politician, is the victim of a violent crime, I hope that we set aside their official title or office and see them as their loved ones do—a wife, a daughter, a friend, and a human made in God’s image. I humbly ask that you pray for Congresswoman Giffords and her family and staff, the families of all the victims, Jared Loughner, Loughner’s family, all public figures who make themselves available to their constituents in our democratic republic, and everyone trying to understand why this senseless, horrific tragedy happened in the first place.