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Connections and Consequences
By Stephen Kent
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Monday, January 10, 2011
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Of all the comments—thoughtful and absurd—since the Jan. 8 Arizona shooting spree that left six dead and U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition with a head wound, two stand out for being the alpha and omega of bringing context to the events.

This from John Ellinwood:

"I don't see the connection," between fundraisers featuring weapons and the shootings. "I don't know this person; we cannot find any records that he was associated with the campaign in any way. I just don't see the connection.

"Arizona is a state where people are firearms owners—this was just a deranged individual."

Ellinwood is a spokesperson for Gifford's opponent in last November's election.
During his campaign, Republican challenger Jesse Kelly held fundraisers where he urged supporters to help by joining him to shoot a fully loaded M-16 rifle. Kelly is a former Marine who served in Iraq and was pictured on his website in military gear holding his automatic weapon and promoting the event.

Again Ellinwood:

"I just don't see the connection."

The connection that Ellinwood is so remarkably unable to make is that of a deranged individual swimming in the cesspool of violence and finding firearms to be an acceptable solution to his problem.

"Deranged individual." That is always the title, the alibi given perpetrators so the rest of us can take comfort in the fact he's not like us.

I've never been a fan of the "we are all guilty" mantra that follows outrages and tragedies, but I am more than willing to make an exception this time.

We are guilty of adding to the polluted atmosphere anytime we let a hateful, violence-inciting remark pass unchallenged.

Using the First Amendment to justify inciting to violence and the Second Amendment to justify possession of semi-automatic weapons with the primary purpose of killing— lots of killing—is specious.

The connection that Ellinwood and others—for he certainly is not alone—cannot make is creating an explosive climate that can set off someone such as the Arizona assassin.

The broadcast and web loudmouths who day after day extol violence and hate and encourage it are at fault. "We don't really mean it literally, it's just an expression" doesn't cut it.

It is not denigrating to say there are many people who cannot think as well as do others, who are unable to process and analyze information into sensate thought.

The talk of "take back government" and ".45 justice" and other remarks from talk radio are taken seriously by "deranged individuals." The rabble-rousers are parasites living on the credibility built carefully over decades by professional journalists and responsible media.

Inciting to riot is a crime. Shouting fire in a crowed theater is unprotected speech. A constant stream of hate against public officials is wrong.

Law enforcement officials say members of Congress reported 42 cases of threats or violence in the first three months of 2010, nearly three times the 15 cases reported during the same period a year earlier. And this does not include people who go to school board and civic hearings with guns in their pockets and murder in their hearts.

As with all national atrocities and outrages, the cycle will continue. The background of the perpetrator will be scrutinized, and then some years later a trial, then several appeals and if all goes well, we will then kill the killer to show our objection to killing.
So what can an individual do, an individual who abhors what happened and would never be a part of such a thing?

Take a strong position against such talk. Hearing a comment from a conversation partner, at a party, should bring the same vehement reaction as an insult to spouse or parent.

Call the person out and say that kind of language—whether inciting to violence or maternal ursine nonsense—is unacceptable in your presence.

Ellinwood was at one end. At the other is Giffords referring in an earlier interview to campaign signs depicting her congressional district as a target in the crosshairs of a gun sight.

"When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action," Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC.

There is a connection. And, sadly, there are consequences.

(Kent, now retired, was editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle. He may be contacted at:

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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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