The Blame Game – Why Finger-pointing is Inappropriate in Tucson’s Immediate Aftermath

An opaque fog still shrouds the entire affair, but in the aftermath of Tucson, the fingers are already pointing.

A valuable quality during times like this these — days and weeks that follow events that we wish we could do away with entirely — is the conscious decision to be understated. In a loquacious world, silences are often more effective and meaningful than any amount of words could be. Silence and understatement are steeped in wisdom and patience. They testify to the notions that impulsive fury and knee-jerk conclusions are dangerous waters to wade into — even in times of extremity.

But we live in a society whose mouth never shuts, whose attention span is minimal, and whose decisions are rash. The lights that emanate from our laptops and BlackBerrys keep us awake even when we’re asleep. The news cycle is stuck on repeat and the talking heads never stop talking. We use our voices far more often than we use our ears. There is very little about American life that is understated. It seems as though each of us feels a little bit more passionately about issue x than the next guy; each of us is just a little more correct, a little more informed than the next guy. When it rains, it pours.

This is a time to be understated.

What transpired in the Tucson Safeway on Saturday morning was a calamity. It takes a vitriol beyond evil to lift a lethal weapon to the face of another human being. It takes a vitriol beyond evil to look life square in the eyes with the sole intention of ending it. It takes a vitriol beyond evil to be able to bring oneself to pull the trigger and spray a barrage of bullets at an open, innocent, youthful, human crowd. And for that, in these fleeting moments that come on Saturday’s tail, we can’t blame a website. We can’t blame an ad. We can’t blame a politician and we can’t blame a party. We can’t blame a movement and we can’t blame an ideology.

Civil discourse is depleting and the level of hostility in the political arena is high. Elements of each of these entities could have been factors in the shooting’s equation. But none of them is to be blamed for the assassination attempt of a member of our legislature or the murder of Dory Stoddard, Dorothy Murray, Gabe Zimmerman, Phyllis Scheck, John Roll, and Christina Taylor Greene. The blame game isn’t constructive. America needs to take a deep breath, unclench its fists, and put its pointer fingers down; for there is not fairer judge than time. And time will exert its wrath upon the perpetrator of this egregious act. In this noisy world, it isn’t quick conclusions that bring about justice. It is silence — to listen — and scrutiny — to find — that guide us along the right path.

A Shattered Cultural Taboo

Left-wing political commentator Juan Williams was fired from his post at National Public Radio Wednesday night for a remark he made which was perceived by many to be insolent and politically incorrect. During an appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s show on Monday, Williams, O’Reilly, and Mary Katherine Ham debated about the dubbed “The War against Islam.”

“Political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality. I mean look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country,” Williams said. “But when I get on a plane, I gotta tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried, I get nervous.”

That last sentence, unmistakably, was what cost Williams his job. His remarks “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices,” NPR wrote in a memo that explained the firing. From one point of view, several left-wingers expressed outrage at Williams. From another, conservatives like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin called for NPR’s funding to be cut as a result of Williams’ termination.

But were Williams’ remarks also inconsistent with American mainstream standards and practices? Did he cross a red line that few daring Americans cross? Did he set himself apart from the fray–admitting a type of innate racial skepticism and distrust that is unique to his own conscience? I think not.

Williams’ inborn action of profiling that is now being tossed around in a very public arena is the same action that happens in the minds and souls of Americans every day. This basic xenophobia doesn’t only take form in airports (for people of Arab descent), it also seeps through in legislative and cultural trends. The Arizona immigration law, while it has nothing to do with Islam or the Middle East, exemplifies a quintessential American concept: we are afraid of the unfamiliar.

Juan Williams got fired for violating a supposed cultural taboo. But the cultural taboo is only a facade. Racial profiling is like gossip–society claims to frown upon it, yet everyone does it.

Sure, America is still the “city on a hill,” and in many respects a beacon of light to the rest of the world. But this exclusionist notion of categorical American supremacy needs to end. We use racial and ethnic profiling as a subconscious exertion of our ultranationalism.

And if racial profiling is a passive action, there’s a coherent method of combatting it: a commanding awareness of our actions.

That’s Your Birth Certificate? I Don’t Believe You.

I was talking to a Republican friend of mine a few weeks ago. Roughly a week had passed since the Arizona immigration law had become legislation and we were vigorously debating it. I was irate and told him that the law was unjust and chauvinistic. He couldn’t seem to understand what my problem with the law was. He was so intent on its “effectiveness” and how rational he thought it was; “If you’re an American citizen and can prove it– you’re fine!”

A few days ago, in Northern Illinois, a man named Eduardo Caraballo was taken into police custody after he was suspected of being involved in a robbery. When his mother came to bail him out, the cops wouldn’t let him go. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took him into custody on the hunch that he wasn’t a legal citizen.

Caraballo was born in Puerto Rico– a commonwealth of the United States– and maintains US citizenship. He supplied the feds with his birth certificate, ID, and social security number, but they kept him in custody over the weekend. They weren’t sure the he was a citizen. Apparently, there wasn’t enough evidence.

Maybe it was human nature, or maybe it was just an excuse; but, if for no other reason, this is why Arizona’s immigration “reform” is nefarious and highly unethical. It doesn’t work. Its motives are skewed and it empowers people to debilitate those who share their rights and privileges.

Arizona SB 1070 law is deeply rooted in conservative acrimony towards all things different and embodies a type of xenophobia that the world hoped to have done away with more than half a century ago.

It doesn’t work.

(Ed. note: He’s Puerto Rican-American, and they were going to deport him to MEXICO!)


Everyone’s been so caught up with Arizona’s new immigration law that we’ve been ignoring another total injustice: Arizona’s new teaching law. The Department of Education in Arizona has announced that it will begin to cut funding from schools that employ English teachers who have “heavily accented or ungrammatical” accents.

We are–to borrow a phrase from JFK–a nation of immigrants. We all came to this country from somewhere. This streak of narrow-minded, “gotcha” politics is counterproductive, and undermines the values on which this country was founded.

To say that someone cannot be a successful teacher because of the way they speak is similar to saying that a person cannot be a successful teacher because of the way they look. The only avenue anyone should be taking to judge teachers is examining the way that they teach.

5 Reasons

What’s wrong with the new Arizona immigration law:

1) It encourages police officers to lie and come up with excuses to pull people over (eg. “broken taillight).

2) It’s 100% racial profiling. It encourages police officers to pull people over if they look Latino.

3) It’s an invasion of privacy.

4) It will create a black market.

4a) Because they can be pulled over and asked for their papers at any time, it will make it necessary for people to carry their immigration papers wherever they go.

4b) Once people have an incentive to further break the law, they will. Therefore, those who are illegal immigrants will find ways to get “immigration papers”, resulting in more crime.

5) It’s downright unconstitutional. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.