I would like to draw your attention to the sound of a dog not barking: Following the slaughter in Tucson, consider what did not happen: no further violence, no retaliation against Loughner’s family or friends. Indeed, the only sentiments I have heard expressed about Loughner’s family have been those of concern and sympathy. The killer was not torn to pieces at the scene. He will receive a trial, with gold-plated legal representation, and, almost certainly, first-rate psychiatric care.
There were no riots. People were shocked and horrified, but they remained calm. They were generous with their time, their concern, and their prayers. Civilians — elderly ones — risked their lives to subdue the killer. Those who are professionally involved in responding to these sorts of situations performed their jobs with aplomb.
This in a nation suffering under a climate of simmering, barely controlled violence? Where are the riots?
It is a situation of a different magnitude, but I am reminded of what did not happen in the wake of 9/11. I am reminded of what did not happen in the wake of the Ft. Hood shooting and what did not happen after Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad’s attack on the Army recruiting center in Little Rock.
May I point out: This is not normal, if by normal you mean consistent with the experiences of the greater part of mankind over history. When Indira Gandhi was assassinated — not eons ago, but in 1984, and not in some savage corner of the world, but in civilized, pacifistic India — thousands of Sikhs were lynched in retaliation, a pogrom of unbelievable horror. The French have seen more political violence this month while debating rent control than we will see after an assassination attempt. Consider Theodore Dalrymple’s take on Algeria and Tunisia, and their recent unrest, and what it bodes for the future of Europe.
There was a bit of progressive scoffing at Rich’s column affirming his belief that the United States really is the best and finest nation there has been, but anybody who has spent much time abroad (or immersed in a newspaper, for that matter) knows that the level of civility and decency exhibited by Americans during times of crisis is remarkable. Exceptional, you might say.
There have been some shameful performances during this episode, from those who have attempted to profit by it, either politically or financially (a subject I plan to revisit in a bit). What is most troubling about those distasteful performances is not the momentary and transient gains that these malefactors may enjoy in their electoral standing, television ratings, or website traffic, but that these cheap and dishonorable attempts to gain from this horror inevitably corrode the underlying bonds that make this country such a remarkable place. And that makes me more fearful for my country than do the bloody deeds of a lone lunatic.