Straight Talk Advice

Jan 19, 2011

Panel weighs in on Arizona shootings

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I’m curious how young people feel about the shootings in Arizona. Politics has taken on an “us versus them” mentality. Hate and sound bites prevail over real conversation. Each side tries to prevent the other from accomplishing anything. Also, how do young people deal with philosophical differences among their peers? — Richard, Toledo, Ohio

Peter 23, Monterey, Calif. Ask me a question

I think the shooter was crazy. I think the situation was a tragedy. I don’t know if politics played any role, but Jon Stewart put it best when he said, “It would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn’t in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on TV.” I understand why Sarah Palin and others get defensive when they’re accused of influencing this situation, but if they conducted themselves more like adults, versus going to such extremes when making their political points, they wouldn’t have to worry about comparisons.

Matt 16, Villa Park, Calif. Ask me a question

When I first heard about the shooting, I was in shock. The media, unfortunately, jumps to bold conclusions. Arizona politics have been very heated, but to say this incident was caused by divisive politics is dangerous. Jared Loughner shared neither an allegiance to the Republican or Democratic party. He was disturbed, unstable and reclusive. My prayers go to the victims, their families, and the Loughner family.

Leif 21, Berkeley, Calif. Ask me a question

I had many different responses to the shootings. I’m less proud of my disgust that this vile human did something terrible to “us” (the Democrats). I’m more proud of my thought that this occurrence is a symptom of our society and that my actions constantly contribute to that society.

Katelyn 16, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

The violence in Arizona was tragic. Some think it was caused by the shooter’s background or political standpoint, but that won’t bring anyone back, and since everyone reacts differently to things, it won’t prevent future shootings either. As for respecting other people’s philosophical standpoints, I try to listen even if I disagree. But even if I simply point out something I don’t understand, I’m usually automatically labeled as narrow-minded. I’m sorry to say that I’ve experienced this with very normal people who don’t need politicians to show them how to throw hate around.

Emily 16, Fair Oaks, Calif. Ask me a question

The suspect had serious mental problems. However, the divisive political climate could have played a role. Politicians and citizens today are often unwilling to compromise for the sake of moving forward. An example is when, after the health care bill passed, a Republican official pledged to avoid cooperating with Democrats for the rest of the year. (This sort of stupidity has been seen in both parties.) How old are these people? Judging by how they conduct themselves, they have the maturity of spoiled toddlers. Is it pride? Stubbornness? It just doesn’t make sense. When another student voices political opinions I disagree with, I usually keep my mouth shut. Arguing over politics generally accomplishes nothing. Nobody will see the other side.

DEAR RICHARD: It’s an honor to share the panelists’ viewpoints on this topic. I’ll share mine as well. Political leaders act like “spoiled toddlers” because it gets them press coverage — and thus donations. But mentally unstable constituents aren’t exactly rare. If our leaders whip them into a frenzy of hate, it effectively shuts democracy down. Who will run for office if everyone is afraid of being killed by a mental case for expressing their views? Politics hasn’t always been this uncivil and divisive. It used to be okay to even be friends with someone from the “other side.” Ronald Reagan was best friends with Tip O’Neal. Orrin Hatch with Ted Kennedy. Perhaps this tragedy is the wake-up call Congress — and everyone — needs to return to civil discourse.

Editor’s Note: My heart goes out to six people killed and 14 others injured in a shooting rampage at a “Congress on Your Corner” gathering at a Safeway store in Tucson, Arizona led by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D). Giffords was the first person attacked with a shot to the head and remains in critical condition. The mentally troubled suspect in the shootings, Jared Loughner, is being held. It is my hope that instead of everyone pointing the finger at mentally unstable people while shaking their heads hopelessly, we look at our own conduct and the conduct of our political leaders (do I dare mention our gun laws?), and realize that our words and symbols carry enormous power. We all could be more mindful of taking the high road in how we speak and interact with each other — and demand the same from our elected officials. In a world where guns and mentally unstable constituents are more and more common, a democracy can’t afford not to. —Lauren

  1. By Marissa, age , from Redding, CA, USA on 01/19/2011

    I think the tragedy in Arizona proves once and for all that we need stricter gun control.  I really don’t think it was politics that caused like some are saying.  The problem is that a mentally unstable person could buy a semiautomatic weapon with no problem.  That’s insane.

    My stepdad and stepbrother are big hunters as are many people who live around where we do and we have guns in the house which scares me to death even though they don’t keep them loaded.  I have to share a room with my stepbrother.  He has his own hunting rifle which he keeps in our room.  He sometimes likes to point it at me and pretend like he’s going to shoot me.  When I get upset, he just laughs and says “come on, you know it’s not loaded.”  I don’t think he would really shoot me on purpose, but it’s always possible that somebody could forget to unload their gun and I’ve heard of such incidents happening.  When I complained to my stepdad, he just laughed and said “boys will be boys” and said that he used to do this to his sisters to scare them.  It’s bad enough to have to share a room with and undress in front of a guy (but that’s a different story) without having a gun pointed at me. 


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