I’ve had a very strange day. I have a lot I’m supposed to be working on, but I’ve found myself in the middle of this tragedy playing out in Columbia, SC today. You hear about shootings and tragedies on the news, maybe you, like me, find them disturbing and fascinating and horrifying. Sometimes even those distant horrors can seem personal, like Columbine, and people who weren’t even close to being involved have to get through the grief of the event.
I certainly didn’t think I’d ever know someone at the center of something like that. Why would I? It seemed like something that happened in other worlds. Certainly not in Columbia, SC, and definitely not in the whitebread, middle class neighborhood of Shandon.
I woke up early this morning and couldn’t quite go back to sleep, so I checked my Facebook. One of my FB friends wrote that they’d heard shots outside their house, and they live in Shandon. My mom lives in Shandon, but all I really thought was, “Now I can get back at her for all the paranoia when I lived in Echo Park.” And I went back to sleep.
After I got to work, I read a little about it, and the information was sparse: a police officer had been shot in the protective vest, a suspect with an AK-47 had been killed, suicide by cop, and it all happened within sight of my mother’s house. That was a little bit too freaky, so I texted her to make sure she was OK. She didn’t reply for a long while, and when she did I was really flummoxed.
“It was Blake Jernigan.”
And here was my thought process: Blake Jernigan. Was the shooter? That can’t be right. Does she mean he was the officer who is OK, no, he’s too young, that doesn’t make sense, she must mean he was the shooter. He did get in trouble a couple years ago for drugs or something, but he’s like 22, he’s a kid! He went to high school with my little brother! He used to hang out at our house, he’s friends with my little sister, clearly she’s got something mixed up or is talking about something else…
So I texted my little brother, hoping that he’d say something like “Oh, no, she just meant it was at his house, it wasn’t him, he’s fine.” He didn’t say that.
Then the news caught up with gossip and reported that the shooter was Blakely Jernigan. They even found a picture of him from Facebook. He looks exactly like he did when he was 12.
If you ever know someone involved in some sort of story, don’t read the comments. Really, do not, it will only make you angry and sad and doubtful of the worthiness of humanity. I don’t begrudge the cops for shooting him, they did what they had to do and shooting at cops is basically a death wish, but I don’t understand the people crowing about the death of a 22 year old troubled kid. Calling him names, discussing which more terrifying weapons the police should have used to destroy him, and of course the one guy who says he’d wished it was Obama that got shot instead.
Then my brother FB IMed me, he seemed really freaked out. No one was surprised that he came to a bad end, but no one thought he’d be at the center of a police shoot out either. Apparently his personality had drastically changed since going to college, he started doing and selling drugs, and he got a fully automatic AK-47 because people were robbing him. Not really a story that’s going to have a happy ending.
I dunno, maybe this is one of those bleeding heart liberal things, where I just can’t make anyone into a cardboard cutout bad guy. I can’t help but see people in these stories, even when I don’t know them. I just don’t know why anyone is happy at the death of another. I have no distance from this, so I guess I can’t really say.
I am very glad that the officer is going to be just fine, I only wish the same could be said for the Jernigans.
Forum Network is a site from PBS and NPR that’s created a new series about promoting civil discourse, particularly in the wake of the shootings in Arizona. They sent me an e-mail asking me to check out the site and promote it if I thought it was something I liked, and I do like it quite a bit. Although I think I am genetically pre-programmed to like anything that NPR or PBS does. According the their site, they provide:
Lectures that examine the challenges that freedom, democracy, and human nature bring to bear on reasoned political discourse and debate in our country.
While there are great issues facing our nation, American Democracy is organized around the central principal that open, fair and truthful debate, characterized by respect for opposing viewpoints is essential to a healthy democracy. We are committed to the values of respectful discourse — embracing civility and rejecting demagoguery — in government, media and our personal lives.
“There can be no high civility without a deep morality.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is as noble a mission as I can think of and the content on the site is high quality as well. And this ties in quite closely with what I was saying in my previous post about Sarah Palin’s target list. Again, not that Palin had anything to do with the assassination, but the level of discourse in politics right now needs to be examined.
One of the more interesting things I watched over on this site was a video discussing all the wrong reporting from the MSM during the afternoon of the shooting. There was a big question of whether it was more important to be the one who got there first or who was right — I think it’s difficult. With blogging I think it’s easier to present facts as tentative, and they don’t do that as much on Cable News. Still, when everyone wants instant information is it your duty to get the right information while people wait, or to give the best information you can so that people aren’t guessing the wrong thing?
In any event, go watch some of the videos. Tell me if any are really good.
Gabrielle Giffords is a Democratic representative from Arizona, who was reportedly shot in the head today at a political event in her hometown of Tucson. There are rumors, but no official word on whether she has survived yet.
What I’d like to point people to is something that is in incredibly bad taste, and was in incredibly bad taste before this shooting. It is a list of targets, all marked with gunsights, that Sarah Palin released recently calling for Americans to “Take a Stand”.
I’m not saying that Sarah Palin called for the murder of this woman and we don’t know if the assassination was politically motivated — I am saying that the militant right wing of this country uses some very violent and dangerous rhetoric. I’m saying that using the word “solution” and showing a picture of rifle crosshairs with a list of “Targets” is a horrible idea.
Will the right wing learn its lesson and stop using such militant language? I hope so. I imagine a shit storm is about to fall on Sarah Palin and I almost feel bad for her. And I really hope that Gabrielle Giffords survives, that this wasn’t politically motivated, and there are no copycats.
EDIT: NPR is now reporting that she has not survived. Not good. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assassinated_American_politicians
EDIT 2: She was the only member of Congress with a spouse in the military, her husband is an astronaut.
EDIT 3: @mattyglesias posts this image, a campaign event:
EDIT 4: NPR now reporting Giffords may be alive.
EDIT 6: Andrew Sullivan posts in response to the event, which I will pretend had anything to do with the email I sent him.
For a public figure who has appeared on a national ticket and who commands a cult-like following, the irresponsibility is even more profound. And so one reads the following sentences from the Arizona Wildcat last September with the blood draining from one’s face.
Palin Reloads; Aims For Giffords
Earlier this year, Palin drew sharp criticism for featuring a map on her web page riddled with crosshairs targeting Democrats in vulnerable congressional districts. Tucson’s Gabrielle Giffords is among the 20 Democratic incumbents whom Palin intends to use for target practice.
And we get a screenshot from Sarah Palin’s Twitter feed:
EDIT 7: Sarah Palin has removed both the target list and the above tweet from her accounts and website. There you have it — what’s that law of the internet that says when you try to remove something from the internet it only gets bigger? (The Streisand Effect)
EDIT 8: The congresswoman is out of surgery, they are optimistic as they can be under the circumstances, she was shot “through and through” on one side of her head. I hope she makes it, it is truly horrifying.
EDIT 9: Accused shooter is being named as both Jared Laughner and Jared Lee Loughner. The second name has youtube and myspace accounts, which reveal him to be a very strange guy who is obsessed with grammar, it has anti-government stuff, ramblings about the gold standard, revolution, atheism or antitheism or just not liking God (not clear) and major paranoia about mind control.
EDIT 10: News confirming it’s Jared Loughner, the owner of previously linked youtube account.
EDIT 11: I just want to be clear here, even if the shooter pointed to that hit list or tweet or whatever and said that he was doing this for Sarah Palin, it would not be Sarah Palin’s fault. He’s a nutcase, a crazy person, who did a crazy thing, and that is all on him. I just think that politicians and public figures should be looking at their violent language and question if it’s in good taste or terribly wise to say things like the things she has said.
EDIT 12: (202) 747-1812 is the number for SarahPac. If you believe it was wrong for Sarah Palin to put crosshairs over Giffords’ district given the situation that occurred today, dial the number and let Sarah know your thoughts.
EDIT 13: According to @maddow “Pima County Sheriff says department is “actively in pursuit” of a second suspect — 2nd man not a shooter.” And “Pima County Sheriff says AZ shooting suspect is “unstable”.” Describes second man being sought as “a person of interest”.
EDIT 14: Bomb squad called in to investigate suspicious package at vigil at Giffords office. The gunman’s gun was bought legally in AZ a few weeks ago. Tucson Tea Party Leader has no intention of changing the tone of their rhetoric. The Sheriff thinks that this is the result of violent rhetoric, and they are looking for a second suspect. And the MSM in Tucson is covering the SarahPAC target list.
EDIT 15: Witness Joe Zamudio says he helped bystanders subdue the Arizona gunman as he was trying to reload. Holy crap. It could have been worse.
EDIT 16: KSAZ-TV is reporting Congresswoman Giffords is awake, recognized her husband and spoke to people in her hospital room.
EDIT 17: Last post of the evening. Sheriff on Giffords.