News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

January 18, 2011

MS. TAKES: Upsetting time even for an optimist

TERRE HAUTE — I am at heart an optimist. It has been a happy life and I appreciate that. It’s just that an incident such as that recent Arizona affair boggles my mind and I begin to wonder if I have misunderstood what life is supposed to be about.

It has upset me. Incidents of violence always upset me. The blame game starts and any semblance of rationality goes down the tube. There is plenty of blame to pass around and this tragedy was no exception. The thing is, there is never a single incident or single cause. It is an atmosphere of violent reaction which seems to have taken over our society.

The is, and has been, plenty of trash talk from people on both sides of the aisle. It doesn’t help to put your opposition candidate in the crosshairs. Then, when this tactic is picked up by all sorts of head cases who profess to “know the truth” and disseminated it on the Internet, it somehow becomes fact which, in turn, sets off the unstable in our society.

Should someone have picked up on this specific unstable individual? Surely being expelled from college with a note that he could not be readmitted unless he could present evidence of having received a mental health evaluation was a signal. Reportedly no counseling was offered or accepted. It was legal for him to buy a gun and clips of ammunition. Should his parents have intervened? Could they? He was past the recognized age of adulthood and, presumably, capable of making his own decisions.

But have we become a society using violence as a first reaction to a perceived wrong? Movies and television are replete with shootings and explosions as a starting point of a story. My current “favorite” is an ad for a vampire program featuring blood spurting as the male severs the jugular of the female with his fangs. Even when the “good guys” win, the dehumanizing element is unmistakable. If you are “right” it stands to reason the other guy is the “bad guy” and you are entitled to shoot.

I miss movies with happy endings and comedy without vulgarity. I need to believe that is normal and the violence is abnormal. I believe that.

I wish I had answers. I have only the urge to pull the covers over my head and wait for a better day. Civilization is supposed to be about getting along with others. Democracy is supposed to be about respecting the differing opinions of others.

I believe that will happen — eventually.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to

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