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opinion/commentary View Comments

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: considersk@gmail.com.)


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John of Capistrano: It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events. 
<p>Imagine being born in the 14th century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times. </p><p>John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later. </p><p>His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion. </p><p>The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John’s tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed and the "Spirituals" were freed from interference in their stricter observance. </p><p>He helped bring about a reunion with the Greek and Armenian Churches, unfortunately only a brief arrangement. </p><p>When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, he was commissioned to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Gaining little response in Bavaria and Austria, he decided to concentrate his efforts in Hungary. He led the army to Belgrade. Under the great General John Hunyadi, they gained an overwhelming victory, and the siege of Belgrade was lifted. Worn out by his superhuman efforts, Capistrano was an easy prey to an infection after the battle. He died October 23, 1456.</p> American Catholic Blog When we are linked by the power of prayer, we as it were, hold each other’s hand as we walk side by side along a slippery path; and thus by the bounteous disposition of charity, it comes about that the harder each one leans on the other, the more firmly we are riveted together in brotherly love. —St. Gregory the Great

 
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