Blame game is path to nowhere

�I do think it's important to watch our rhetoric. I think it's a worthwhile goal not to conflate our political opponents with enemies if for no other reason than to draw a better distinction between the manifestos of paranoid madmen and what passes for acceptable political and pundit speak. It would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn't in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on TV.�

It�s ironic that such wisdom following the tragic shooting in Arizona last weekend comes from one of our nation�s funniest men � Jon Stewart � who made this remark as part of a lengthy monologue earlier this week on his Comedy Central program, �The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.�

Since Jared Loughner opened fire last weekend for who knows why at a Tucson, AZ meeting being hosted by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, we Americans were first shocked, and then outraged. And we've reacted by launching a rather fruitless search as we try our best to find someone to blame for it all.

Loughner is alleged to have shot 19 people in his rampage outside of the supermarket where Giffords held her meeting. Giffords was shot in the head, and remains in intensive care.

Among the six people killed were a 9-year-old girl who was born on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and was interested in public service, one of Giffords' aides, and a federal judge.

I�ve listened to some of the pundits talk about how last weekend�s events demonstrate that it�s time to tone down the vitriolic nature of politics in our nation. Stewart made a valid point when he observed that it's important to watch our rhetoric.

It�s easy to succumb to that notion as a potential cure for the problem of Loughner and people like him, who so suddenly wreak havoc on innocent people.

Think of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann and Sarah Palin and it�s easy to observe, as Stewart did, that it would be �nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn't in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on TV.�

We are all being a bit quieter right now, flying flags at half-staff, taking moments to pray silently in public, tuning out the people who we normally hear screaming when we turn on talk radio or the endless 24-hour opinion shows on cable television.

Eventually, though, things will return to how they once were. The screaming will begin again. The arguing, the banter, the raucous verbal assaults made by both pundits and politicians hasn't totally gone away, and it will soon be back in full force.

It's easy to blame the current ugly political mood in our country as the reason for last weekend's senseless shooting. What's not easy to recognize is as obvious as it is disturbing � it�s terribly difficult to stop a crazy person who wants to hurt or kill others.

It�s a lesson we�ve all learned the hard way for decades now. From people like Timothy McVeigh, and John Hinckley and Seung-Hui Cho and Mark David Chapman and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

The list goes on and on. The media talk to acquaintances of these people, and usually get a similar response: a story that paints an individual exhibiting anti-social behavior, perhaps trouble with school or law enforcement authorities, a loner, a person who seemed to be out of touch with reality.

In this day and age, we go to great lengths to make sure we and our loved ones are safe. We install cameras in our schools, we walk through metal detectors in courthouses, we engage in full body scans before boarding an airliner.

Which makes one of Stewart�s statements earlier this week stand out in particular. �Let�s at least make troubled individuals easier to spot,� he said.

In the past year, Pima County, AZ, where Rep. Giffords and 19 others were shot Saturday, has seen more than 45 percent of its mental health services recipients forced off the public rolls, a service advocate told The Huffington Post.

The deep cuts in treatment were protested strongly at the time, with opponents warning that they would result in a spike in suicide attempts, public disturbances, hospitalizations and brushes with the police. But according to Clarke Romans, executive director for southern Arizona's branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the state government ignored requests for relief, citing the need to implement strict budget controls.

Now, in the wake of last weekend's horrific shootings, reports on the seemingly crazed mental state of the alleged shooter � who was not, apparently, enrolled in any public treatment program � is leading politicians, reporters and activists to take a fresh look at the funding of mental health care.

That �fresh look� taken by all states, not just Arizona, may just be the most productive outcome of our nation�s latest tragedy. Trying to assign blame to something as obscure as political speech (which, one can agree, is becoming more and more ridiculous) will get us nowhere.

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