Have you ever wondered why lethal gunfire in Tuscon should be somehow more tragic than murderous rocket-fire in Pakistan or Afghanistan? Most news reporters (and maybe even most of us), upset by the bloodshed in Arizona, seem to accept the killings in foreign lands. When U. S. government officials direct unmanned aircraft to destroy a residence in order to kill “an insurgent,” the innocents who are incinerated are referred to as “collateral damage. ” No moral questions are ever raised.
Why should it be different here? The Tucson shooter seems to have fancied himself an enforcer of justice, a sort of super-hero. That makes him one of us. His commitment to violence as a force for good is right out of the U. S. playbook. His privilege to arm himself, like the authority of our president to arm his acolytes, comes directly from our governing documents. It’s true there’s nothing in there giving either him or his president a license to kill, but this president certainly claims such “extralegal” authority, and so why shouldn’t he have it too?
There’s never a shortage of armed citizens who are willing to defy laws to kill enemies, but they seem to thrive during periods of government-sanctioned mass murder. Harsh rhetoric might provide some encouragement for such people, but actions speak louder than words. As a nation, we Americans now kill without hesitation and consider it a virtue. Shouldn’t we expect aggrieved citizens to follow our example?