The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

Tragedy in Tuscon

On Saturday morning, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot. So was a federal judge, one of the Congresswoman's aides, and a score of her constituents. Some of them are dead, including a 9-year-old girl. I was at home in Encinitas when I heard about it, but was getting in the car to drive back up to Berkeley, and didn't get a chance to learn much more about it that day. Somewhere past the grape vine I scanned for an NPR affiliate, but nobody around there listens to much NPR, so there wasn't one. I happened upon an AP newsbreak that included some of President Obama's remarks, but that was about it. I couldn't stand not being able to find anything out or write anything down. I made a voice recording on my iPhone (something I'd never done before, haha) and the rest of this post will be based on that. I'm going to try not edit it for more accurate information, really, because I want it to be my raw response that morning. I think you'll get what I mean.

Congresswoman Giffords was meeting with her constituents in a Safeway parking lot. A 22-year-old man [later identified as Jared Lee Loughner] shot and killed at least five people. He shot Congresswoman Gifford through the head, though she miraculously survived. As I was driving up the state of California, she was in surgery. I learned that from Twitter while I waited for my coffee at some freeway offramp Starbucks. What's most interesting about this event to me, is the obvious Tea Party connection. There's a graphic made by SarahPAC [which I am sure by now everyone in the world has seen] that shows crosshairs over each of the congressional districts that Sarah Palin believes should have new leadership ASAP. Most reasonable people would believe that this is a metaphor and that election time is when we vote to remove people from office. But we all know by now that the Tea Party are not reasonable people. And it's not just that I have a personal problem with Sarah Palin, because I absolutely do, but I don't think my anger is unfounded. I think it is a reasonable thing to be against Sarah Palin. 

Spokespeople for Mrs. Palin are claiming that these are not gun sights, but rather surveyors' tools. Since I don't know anything about guns or surveying, I can't disagree much, but her party's general gun rhetoric leads me to believe otherwise. Additionally, the graphic was removed from Sarah Palin's Twitter, Facebook, and website immediately following the shooting. Covering tracks you claim aren't tracks is a bit suspicious, Sarah.

Tea Party Senate candidate Sharon Engle made some really priceless comments during her campaign about taking up arms in a "second amendment solution" if Tea Partiers were not satisfied with their representation. On March 23, 2010, @SarahPalinUSA tweeted the following: "Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" Pls see my Facebook page." You'd be right if you guessed that tweet was deleted on Saturday morning.

I'm sorry, but I just have to say so. The Tea Party are lunatics. There are hardly words. And for me, when there are hardly words, that is saying something. This makes me very nervous, because we've been talking  a lot about "What is this country coming to?" and "What is the Tea Party doing?" and wondering how the Tea Party's lunacy is going to manifest. Is this how the Tea Party is going to manifest itself?

And with our dear friend John Boehner as the Speaker of the House, is Congress going to spend its first session teaching its Tea Party members just how the government actually works, since they don't seem to have a very firm grasp of it? While they're busy doing that, what are their constituents going to be doing? They loved all that rallying. Are they still rallying? It seems that now that the rallies are over, they've moved on to the taking up arms part. 

People will say this is an isolated incident. That this was a "Lone Wolf" syndrome. This man was mentally ill. I am convinced that this man did not do this of his own volition. Something planted the seed in his head that this was the way to go about getting what he wanted. I think that we all know what that something was.

There is much conversation about how gun control punishes the good guys in order to punish the bad guys. Well, that's sort of how it has to work. We can't only say that bad guys have to have laws, because we use the laws to assess who the bad guys are. If every American driver was capable of yielding traffic safely, we wouldn't have traffic lights. We wouldn't have the highway patrol. We wouldn't have speed limits. But since that's impossible, we have those things. If nobody was ever going to shoot anybody, we wouldn't need gun control. In fact, we wouldn't need guns. 

On that AP newsbreak I mentioned earlier, someone (I have no idea who) from the government in Arizona made the claim that if the people at this meeting had had guns, someone could have shot the shooter before he killed more people.

That is seriously the most ludicrous logic to which I have ever had to listen. If everyone has guns, that just means that more people will shoot more people. In countries where handguns are outlawed, there are, obviously, infinitely fewer gun-related deaths. Of course, bad guys are going to get them. That's why they need to be harder to get.

When incidents like this happen, you can't say that it had nothing to do with gun ownership. If someone is mentally ill, it should be impossible for them to own a gun. If the process by which you obtain a gun does not assess and/or diagnose a mental illness, it's a not a very good screening process. In order to be a seminarian, we are subjected to hours of psychological evaluation and assessment. And we're just trying to be students. 

I don't get it. 

Sarah Palin and her party know that they have something to do with is. They're trying to backpedal, saying that it was never their intention. Well, you have to understand when you are a party that caters to literalism, that you cannot, then, only figuratively encourage your party to shoot people. You cannot encourage your constituents to take up arms, and then retreat when they do! 

It's just unfair. It's unfair that these people were just trying to talk to their Congresswoman. She was just trying to do her job. This is not the way that this government is supposed to run. But what can we do? It's been done. There are families that will never recover. There are countless employees of that Safeway, of Congresswoman Giffords, of the event coordinators -- there are hundreds if not thousands of people who, by this one man's actions, have had their lives changed forever.

And you know what my biggest fear about it is? That the Tea Party is going to get away with this. That they're going to spin it. That they're going to say that they do not think this was appropriate, that they had nothing to do with it, that they condemn this man, that they're going to take it all back. And that we're going to let them. My hope is that this tragedy calls attention to the lunacy of the Tea Party, and that they lose steam. That this country realizes that this extremism is just that. That we cannot trust a group of people whose followers kill people in the name of their party.

Those people who voted for Tea Party candidates in November need to understand what their representatives' words can do. What their representatives' words have done. What their representatives' ideas are producing in this country. 

It's devastating. This is a huge blow to the democratic process in this country. That if you don't like the way something is working, you shoot people. This is not the answer. It's hard to even say anything coherent about this. I'm just so lost. I just don't know what to do. I want to watch MSNBC and CNN and listen to the President and I want them to know what we're going to do about this. I want the White House to have the answer. 

I just hope this is the last time this ever happens. I was really getting good at thinking we were going to be okay. That I needed to let go of my obsession with politics. But, no. Politics is what this world is about. Politics have always been life and death to those who care and those who fight, but politics just became life and death for everyone.

A funny thing about plagiarism.

What Would Casey Do?