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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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