Congresswoman Giffords Shot: A Tragic Day for Arizona, the Nation

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Arizona has once again been thrust into the national spotlight for a trifecta of tragic events during the past week.  A chaotic sequence of occurrences that culminated in a bloodbath of violence in which Tucson congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot.  In addition, six others were killed, many more injured and the nation was left stunned following one of the most deadly incidents in the state’s history.

It all started last Tuesday (January 4, 2011) when the Pinal County Sheriff’s office reported that a paperwork mix up allowed Daniel Perez to be released from jail.  Perez, accused of shooting at a Department of Public Safety officer, was accidentally allowed to walk free.  Then on Wednesday at the Chandler Mall, a man began shooting indiscriminately.  By the time police arrived at the scene, the gunman—later identified as Adam Armando Hernandez—had fled to a Baja Fresh restaurant across the street and was holding several hostages.  A subsequent standoff and negotiation took place eventually resulting in a peaceful resolution to the incident.  These events would be overshadowed by what occurred in Tucson on Saturday.

Only days into her second term in office, Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was hard at work meeting with the people whom she represents in Tucson on Saturday morning.  Hundreds had gathered for the “Congress In Your Corner” event, a function that the Democrat congresswoman put together in order to get better acquainted with her constituents as well as listen to their concerns regarding various issues of the day.  The event turned tragic as a gunman rushed through the crowd and—upon positioning himself only a few feet from the congresswoman—began to wildly open fire.  Within a matter of moments 18 people were wounded and six were killed.  Among the injured was Giffords who suffered a gunshot wound that pierced through her entire head.  Instead of fighting for the people that she represents, Giffords is now fighting for her life; currently listed in critical condition and in a medically induced coma.  Doctors say that they have removed the top of her cranium in order to allow the brain to swell and then naturally return to it’s normal state.  So far, the prognosis seems optimistic that Giffords will survive, however the degree of functionality she will return to is unknown.

The story is even more tragic for six individuals who were killed in the senseless and horrific scene Saturday.  Included in the casualties are U.S. District judge John Roll who wasn’t scheduled to be at the event but had heard that his friend congresswoman Giffords would be there.  Also killed was Giffords’ aide; 30-year old Gabe Zimmerman, he was engaged to be married.  Even more heart-wrenching was the discovery that one of the victims was Christina Taylor Green, a 9-year old girl that was eager to attend the “Congress In Your Corner” function.  Christina was the president of her student counsel at school and had hoped to attend this event to better understand how government works.  In what I could only characterize as the penultimate manifestation of ironic, Christina was born on September 11, 2001.  She was born on the day of the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history and then died needlessly on what would be one of the deadliest days in Arizona history.

But who would do such a thing, and why?  The latter may never be fully realized in spite of what many pundits on all sides seem to say.  The former, however, is known;  the gunman is Jared Loughner, a 22-year old with a very unsettling disposition.  While his actions on Saturday were the apex of his depraved, dysfunctional and deadly personality, they didn’t come without prior warning.  Loughner’s Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and Myspace pages all show a disturbing virtual trail of red-flags.  His blatant, hateful disregard for public officials, the government and seemingly humanity as a whole is evident.  Also included in his musings are a list of books he seems to favor, some of which include works by Aldus Huxley, George Orwell, Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler.

Loughner’s social interactions seem to also lead to the same uneasy conclusions about his persona.  While attending a junior college in Tucson, a classmate—speaking to one of her friends via email—described Loughner as “disturbed” and said she was afraid he was going to “bring an automatic weapon” to class.  The teacher of that basic algebra class also felt the creepy vibes from Loughner.  Not only were there vibes, but actual disruptions as well, to the point where the college later barred him from the campus pending a certified psychological evaluation.

As sad as this entire story is, it only turns more unfortunate and I dare say despicable from two additional dimensions.  In the 60 hours or so since the event took place, the resulting commentary has been nothing short of nauseating.  Immediately upon learning of the tragedy midday Saturday, I went to a local news site to get more information (azcentral.com), several articles had already been posted surrounding congresswoman Giffords’ shooting (and in that moment reported death).  Upon reading one of the articles I made the mistake of continuing on to read the comments.  Perhaps the masochistic side of me enjoys feeling utter disdain for my fellow man or perhaps it was morbid curiosity—whatever the case, what I read was not so much shocking as it was just pathetic.

Initially, some hopeful, optimistic or prayerful comments filled the section, but it was only about five entries in that the real tone of the country began to emerge.  In article after article it was evident; individuals apparently couldn’t get on the internet fast enough to excoriate anyone who held an opposing view to their own and to subsequently blame the tragic event on those opposing ideals and philosophies.  Those that identified themselves as Liberals blaming Conservatives, Republicans blaming Democrats and the binary rhetoric that continued from article to message board and onward just made my heart sink lower and lower—while raising my temper more and more.

The tone continued Monday when talk radio of both sides seemed to bring pundit after pundit and took endless listener calls that chastised the opposing side/philosophies and daring to blame others or inanimate objects for the tragic events of Saturday.  On one particular syndicated “progressive” talk show, I heard salvos launched at Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, guns, former president George W. Bush, conservative talk radio and Glenn Beck.  While on an opposing syndicated “conservative” talk show, I heard blame showered upon Liberals, drugs/marijuana, the public education system, the media and so forth.  Curiously, not even one host of the dozens I’ve listened to since the event put the blame solely and squarely where it belongs… on the shooter, Jared Loughner.

While we may not have total control over what happens to us in life, we do have full control over our own actions.  Jared Loughner killed six people and wounded 18 more, unless it’s discovered that a secret device was being utilized to control his brainwaves in a matter as to manifest this grotesque behavior, there is no one else responsible for his actions but himself.  Rush Limbaugh, Randi Rhodes, Sarah Palin or Barack Obama are as responsible for this event as they are for the sinking of the Titanic.  Jared Loughner used Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler—two very opposite ends of the political spectrum—as his beacons to guide his path.  From what can be reasonably ascertained by examining his online persona and what the FBI has discovered in his home, Loughner concocted his own reality and derived his own sense of ideals from fictional philosophies to the insane rantings of dictators.  Remember, HE crafted this and arrived at where he is at of his own free will.  We’re dealing with a crazed individual and yet it would seem that many people wish to assign rational thinking and a causality outside of Loughner’s own craziness for his actions.  You cannot try to reason what is unreasonable—this is a sick, depraved, hopeless individual that will hopefully get the justice he so desperately deserves… which brings us to the other dimension of this story that already has me feeling ill.

What justice will be served against Loughner?  The short answer is, not nearly enough.  On it’s face, that assessment may seem to be a very pessimistic or outright cynical answer, but events of both the present and the past lead me to defend my supposition that justice will not be served.

Flashback to 1981 when John Hinckley Jr. made an assassination attempt on president Ronald Reagan.  The short version of the story is that Hinckley was obsessed with Jodie Foster, to the point where he watched the movie ‘Taxi Driver’ on a continuous loop.  Hinckley made many attempts to get the attention of Foster but when that failed he began to scheme different nefarious actions that would grab her attention and make her fall in love with him.  Finally he settled on the idea of a presidential assassination and that such an act would certainly impress the woman of his dreams.

On March 30, 1981, Hinckley opened fire on the president, striking Reagan and three others in the attack.  Reagan suffered a punctured lung but made a rather speedy recovery.  Hinckley was detained and a trial was set.  However, in 1982 Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was, instead, put in the custody of a maximum security mental health institution for the next several years.  Following this, Hinckley was moved to a minimum security mental hospital and in 1999 was even allowed to leave or have visitors after a judge found him mentally capable of such. In the years since, Hinckley has had supervised visits and was even allowed to leave the facility for days at a time!  A man who nearly killed a sitting president, forever wounded James Brady and shot a police officer is now free to roam in society once again.

Another example of justice not served was Dennis Sweeney.  In 1980 he walked into the office of Allord Lowenstein—a New York representative—and shot him point blank in the head.  Much like Hinckley, Sweeney was found not guilty by reason of insanity.  Again, the killer was remanded to the custody of a mental institution where he remained for many years.  Almost identical to the Hinckley case, Sweeney was eventually allowed visitors and shortly thereafter because of his outstanding behavior, he was allowed 8-16 hour furloughs from the hospital.  A murderous monster was simply released to the streets of society and, from time to time, could walk freely among any of us.

As a brief aside, Hinckley, Sweeney and other characters throughout U.S. history that have either attempted assassinations or had been successful in doing so all acted on their own accord and even more bizarre, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, MSNBC, liberal talk radio, etc didn’t exist or weren’t present in that time when these characters committed their violent transgressions.  So could we maybe just put aside the blame game now?

History is ripe with characters that have committed heinous acts against elected officials, innocent bystanders and officers of the law and yet justice isn’t properly served.  So why would I believe it to be now?  “But”, you say, “Just because it happened in history doesn’t mean it will happen again”.  True.  However, Jared Loughner has a pretty heavy-hitter in his corner now.  The public defender’s office in Phoenix has called upon the services of Judy Clark, the San Diego public defense attorney whom represented such upstanding characters as Timothy McVeigh, “the unibomber” Ted Kaczynski and Susan Smith—the woman who drowned her own children.  It is almost as certain as a hot summer day in the desert that Clark will opt for the insanity defense in the Loughner case.  Being that Loughner has much of his digital manifesto on his various social networking pages, a case will certainly be built that he is an unhinged individual completely incapable of reasonable thought or standing a proper trial.  Even if a miracle should occur and he does stand trial and is found guilty, the 22-year old will unfortunately live to see many more decades before justice is likely served by way of the death penalty.

The tragedy itself was sickening enough, the rhetoric on all sides that has followed is far worse, but knowing that proper justice will almost certainly not take place is just the final piece that makes this all so overwhelming to think about.

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Also on this episode:

Ted Williams, the homeless man with the “golden voice” seems to be a great story.  A reporter discovered him along the side of a street in Colunbus, Ohio and quickly learned of his story and outstanding voice.  Immediately, he became a viral sensation on the web with over 3,000,000 hits to the video where Williams demonstrates his voice.  Offers from all over the country began pouring in and it seems the story was almost too good to be true.  Sure enough, it is.

The story Williams recalls to the reporter is that he was in the radio industry for awhile but then fell into drugs and alcohol and “a few other things” and lost it all.  As is generally the case, the truth will work it’s way out.  According to thesmokinggun.com, Williams has a rather lengthy criminal history that includes charges for escape, theft/larceny, trespassing and forgery—there’s quite a bit more as well.  The “golden voice” man apparently also has golden loins as well, as it is reported he has nine children.  Most of which he hasn’t seen in years and several of the children are to different mothers.

Certainly no one would begrudge a homeless man the opportunity to get a job, especially coming from the perspective of a struggling radio/voice talent myself.  Of course anyone in this business is well aware that there are many talented people that are either unemployed, under empoloyed or unappreciated.  Furthermore, it just stands patently unfair that so many people work hard, send out resumes, go to agencies and/or work independently to do it the “right” way and can’t seem to get ahead.  Meanwhile, a person of questionable scruples and a very checkered criminal past that hasn’t paid their dues to the business suddenly waltzes in off the streets and becomes a sensation.  What type of message does that send—not only to struggling talents but to our children and those aspiring to be in the industry?  Clearly the message is that it really doesn’t matter what you do as long as you can somehow be freaky enough to have marketability—even if it’s for something completely negative.  Sorry, but I refuse to see the story in such glowing terms.

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A New Jersey man who stabbed three people told police that he was seeking the “portal to Hell”, maybe in a few years he’ll get to ride that portal on a very special… electrical chair.

Master criminal:  Apparently jealous of the person that was trying to become the world’s fattest female:  A woman uses two stolen cards to purchase 255 grilled chicken sandwiches.

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The genesis of the new michaelgroff.com continues and I give my personal thanks to my beloved Hillary Fox <3, the Goddess of the web.

Photo credit: SearchNet Media.

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One Response to “Congresswoman Giffords Shot: A Tragic Day for Arizona, the Nation”

  1. This entire thing is incomprehensible, why would you shoot a 9 year old little girl… This guy’s actions weren’t politically motivated that I can see, he is just a troubled and deranged individual. He should have saved the Justice system the cost and hassle of prosecuting him and shot himself.
    In-spite of calls to keep politics out of the situation in the after math it seems that hate mongering narcissistic talking heads couldn’t resist the urge to inject themselves into the situation so they can spew their vitriolic politically motivated viewpoints about this tragic occurrence. I am sickened by all of it.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims of this random act of violence.

    P.S. Kudos to Ms Hillary Fox and you Mike on the site, it looks good.