Post Arizona

The tragic shooting rampage in Arizona has produced no end of commentary and a similar deluge of blame. But let us be clear: Words did not attempt an assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, nor did words successfully murder six others (among them a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl) and wound another dozen. The carnage was caused by a real person with a real, legally obtained gun.

Early reports indicate that the gunman suffers from a mental illness, but that’s not solely to blame, either. The vast majority of people with mental-health problems never commit an act of violence.

We need to take a good, long look at the political discourse, including the rhetoric and images, which have created a climate so ugly that a young man with a mental illness could find his worst delusions so readily confirmed. Yes, it is a problem that our political conversation has become as rife with threat, conspiracy and fear as the beleaguered inner workings of an ill person’s mind.

The problem isn’t the government; it’s we, the people. We’re the ones who “hate” politicians, use terms like “Second Amendment remedies” and demonize our political opponents. We’re the ones who have become deranged in our tolerance for such.

Is it really a surprise that a sick mind might take us seriously? It is time to restore some sanity and civility to the public square—and it shouldn’t take comedians to do it, as this is no laughing matter.

Human life—and democracy itself—are at risk if we cannot return to the premise that reasonable people can disagree and that our political opponents are not evil. We need to embrace the idea of a loyal—and civil—opposition.