I’m not in much of a mood these days to pass judgment on anyone. I think it’s fair to say most of us are trying as best we can to work our way through the challenges we or our loved ones face on a daily basis. Sometimes they feel overwhelming. Maybe we realize too late we’ve taken on too much, but somehow we have to find a way to meet our obligations of work or family; otherwise, the consequences of not doing so are bound to make things worse, or so we fear, and rightly so. But, being all too human, we all have our limits of time energy, resources, talent and, yes, intellect. We may be very good at some things, and not very good at all at some others. A wise man once told me that his limitations are the hardest thing for a man to accept. It was before the age of political correctness. I’m confident it also applies to women. Realizing and admitting one’s limitations, knowing when it’s time to reach out for help because things have become just “too much” to handle alone without good, sound, perhaps even professional advice, or just another set of muscles, is a very important life skill. And sometimes there are people who, having reached beyond their limits, need to stop, take a deep breath, and then ask themselves, should I really be trying to do this, am I competent to do this, am I just going to make matters worse, maybe even do some serious damage.
Which brings me to Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska, failed Republican vice-presidential candidate, and right-wing populist who may run for President of the United States in the next election and could actually win. And then there’s our own Larry Miller, MP for the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound federal riding and a member of the governing Conservative Party of Canada.
Under certain circumstances I might like Sarah Palin. She seems personable and friendly enough. And if I met her at some social function, a tea party, for example, I might comment over a cup of tea how she’s the spitting image of my oldest daughter, Susan. At least that’s what people tell my Susan often enough. Complete strangers have even done double-takes and stopped her on the street to tell her she looks “just like” Sarah Palin.
Palin has come under a lot of criticism in the U.S. following the one-man shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona last Saturday that left six people dead, including a nine-year-old girl, and 14 people wounded. Gabrielle Giffords, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona, was shot at point-blank range in the head by the gunman and remains in critical condition in hospital as I write this. Before, and even after the shooting, Palin’s website ran a map of the U.S. showing the locations of some members of the U.S. congress, including Giffords, who supported President Barack Obama’s changes to the U. S. Medicare system. Palin and other right-wing commentators have described it as a government “take-over” of the system. Her map quite literally targeted each offending member’s location with crosshairs, such as one finds in the telescopic sights often attached to hunting rifles. Palin has often been photographed dressed in hunting gear and holding firearms. It’s part of the right-wing image she cultivates.
She has responded to the criticism that her cross-haired, website map may have in some indirect way led to the Tucson massacre by saying such accusations are way off target. The shooting was the act of a “deranged” person. “Acts of monstrous cruelty stand on their own,” Palin said in a statement released this past Wednesday, adding they are solely the responsibility of the “criminals” who commit them.
Sorry, Sarah, but you’re wrong. Any reasonable person, who sets their political biases aside for a moment to reflect, can see the connection between your website map and at least a potential act of violence. Whether or not the person now in police custody in Tucson for the shooting actually saw your website and in some sort of twisted way saw it as sanctioning an act of mass-murder is irrelevant. That possibility was there, and you should have known that. At least, in the aftermath of the attack, you should have had the decency and sense to take the website down, and admit it was a mistake, instead of going into self-defence denial mode.
Palin has some serious soul-searching to do about her present and future career plans. She is clearly out of her depth, beyond her limits, as an opinion-maker and would-be leader of the U.S.
The all-pervasive gun culture mentality of American society must also share some of the blame for what happened. That such a person, clearly crazy, and apparently already known to have mental health problems, can just walk into a gun store and buy a semi-automatic firearm is incredible. And yet any suggestion that U.S. gun-control laws, such as they are, should be toughed up is invariably met with cries of righteous outrage from right-wing talk-show hosts and other self-appointed pundits.
Of course the irrational, emotionally-reactive gun culture is not exclusive to the U.S. We have our own brand right here in Canada, and it raised its head in Elmwood last week at a Farmers’ Week session in Elmwood that focused on the Coyote problem. Yes, indeed, there is a problem. Up at “the farm” we worry about going for walks now on the trails because we know there are so many coyotes around. Local MPP Bill Murdoch may be right when he says sooner or later they’ll attack people. It’s already happened in Nova Scotia where a young woman out for a hike was killed last year.
But Larry Miller’s public comments and his suggestion that Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources need to turn a blind eye to gun laws and let farmers carry guns in their trucks and shoot every coyote they see, is an awfully irresponsible thing for an MP to say who I presume has taken an oath to uphold the law. As someone who was once shot at by someone in a pick-up who apparently thought I was trespassing in a farmer’s field, I certainly don’t relish that prospect. I can still hear that bullet whistling by.
We need a better level of thinking than that from our man in Ottawa, if he’s up to it.
Originally published in The Sun Times in 2011.