The Imagined Tiger

Sometimes I simply wonder, does everything have to mean something?

The shootings in Arizona scream out for commentary, and there is plenty of it already.  I think David Gergen’s piece, “No Time for Finger Pointing,” does an excellent job of acknowledging some possible contributing factors to the horrible event, but also of asking for a time-out on blame casting and causality theories.

When bad things happen, we need to find cause and fix blame.  It must comfort us in some way to think that hindsight will surely demonstrate some kind of rational explanation that will stop the violence.

I’ve reached a point in my life where I no longer go through this process, because the process has failed me too many times.  There will always be random and unforeseen destructive impulses that lurch forth, striking down members of the human family who never saw it coming.

I liked what a local journalist in West Virginia had to say on Twitter: @RyRivard What is almost no one talking about re: shooting? Mental health services in U.S. Why? Probably not sexy enough/too complicated.

Everything there makes sense to me.  Sarah Palin and people of her rhetorical technique aren’t helping anything, but I hardly think it’s rational to suggest they are responsible for what a deranged individual did.  It would be comforting to think if we were all just nicer and more civil to one another in public discourse, unhinged and unstable young men wouldn’t pick up firearms and take out their rage at the world in bloody displays of false courage.  Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work like that.

How does it work?  Obviously, no one knows.  My small contribution to the conversation is this: Sometimes, as hard as it is to swallow, there is no answer.  This has happened before in human history, and it will keep happening, no matter what we do or don’t do.  None of us are so powerful as to legislate or meditate a 180 degree change in human nature across the board.

Get serious about mental health services and yes, gun control laws especially where mental health is at issue.  Don’t get sucked into phony debates about whether the right or the left is to blame for this sad and terrible event.  Be a little less likely to rant and rave, but be willing to disagree and to talk.  And realize, perhaps, that sometimes there is no deep meaning to or clear cause of tragedy.  Someone’s death may be senseless, but that does not mean his or her life was.  Focusing on life is my biggest comfort right now.

As my friend Rick summed up so well in his post Causes and Reasons, we are wired to keep trying to find the patterns, and perhaps that is not such a terrible thing after all.

Often we’re wrong in attributing agency to things that just happen, but in evolutionary terms the consequences of a false positive are not as bad as that of a false negative. Being mistaken in trying to escape an imagined tiger isn’t as costly as not trying to escape from a real one.

Image credit: CNT Photo Illustrations

A Welcome Change, Online

This, I must say, was a truly wonderous and pleasant surprise — The Charleston Gazette shared these words with the public yesterday:

The Gazette values readers’ comments and insights.

So, to create a more constructive and civil setting for readers, we’re making a few changes. Comments will no longer appear immediately, but will show up after they have been reviewed and approved. Also, we will be more selective about comments that we approve.

We welcome wit and wisdom and, yes, dissent, but personal attacks, remarks in poor taste or those overly critical or irrational will not be published. We encourage you to keep posting. We just ask that you keep it civil.

When I checked the link just now there were 49 comments on the new policy already.  As one might expect, there is a balance of “Hallelujah” and “I’m calling the ACLU!”

Esse Diem examined this issue earlier this month, and at the time it was one of the blog’s most-read posts.  The newspaper should be commended for refusing to cave to online bullies and cowards, and for creating consistency between standards for its print and online comment policies.  Those who cry censorship need to do some reading on what that actually is, and how the First Amendment is involved regarding freedom of the press.

I can’t even address how ludicrous it is to compare government censorship of journalists with a newspaper voluntarily setting civility standards for itself…….hopefully this sentence is sufficient to convey my thoughts.

It’s no small thing what the paper has done.  On behalf of a society weary from being bashed about the head by angry, irrational people looking to validate their behavior, thank you.

(p.s. Today I updated the “Who” page on this blog as a way of meeting my own challenge to be more transparent online.  It’s no longer a disclaimer of who I’m not, and lot more about who I am.  I hope you enjoy!)