Engaged, informed citizens can end political violence

Dear Editor:
The shooting in Arizona is a tragic event. It left six people dead and many gravely injured, including Rep. Gabriella Giffords. Angry people, whether sane or not, kill or injure people every day all over the world, and each time it is devastating. We want to find something logical we can point to and say: “That’s why it happened”. If it is a popular song like “Helter Skelter,” or a movie like “Taxi Driver,” or a political ad like Sarah Palin’s crosshairs, then we hear about it on the news. But our right to express ourselves freely should not be blamed for the actions of a murderer.
Nevertheless, if you feel that the harsh words of political discourse in recent years have encouraged acts of violence, I urge you not to put gasoline on the fire by blaming one particular group. Our political system is a mess. We have every right to be angry. But we need to recognize that We The People are to blame. The small percentage of passionate people involved in politics all fight with each other in a grand turf war. And the rest simply don’t care, or don’t think they can make any difference.
Yet if each of us spends just two hours a week understanding the political issues of the day, finding fair and workable solutions, and advocating for them, then our political system will improve. It will take time. We will not all become experts on every issue, but we will gain enough understanding to find and elect trustworthy representatives, and to give them guidance to create laws and government programs that are fair, efficient and effective. We won’t have the entertainment of watching two politicians duke it out as if they were on Jerry Springer. Instead we’ll have the fun of finding common ground in unexpected places, and hammering out solutions everyone can be excited about, and then maybe having a beer together afterwards.
Any lasting improvement must start with offering solutions, not pointing fingers. These actions can never repair the lost and damaged lives, but we can use the emotional energy from this event to create something good.

Andy Velwest

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