I am beyond saddened by the events in Tucson this past weekend and even more disappointed in the reputation Arizona has made for itself recently. But this backlash of "who's to blame?" only makes it worse.

The question as to whether the alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner was politically motivated or just mentally unstable is not the main concern of this column. I'm focusing more on the speculation of the effect of the violent rhetoric that is now so prevalent in today's political media.

Gary Hart had some nice things to say in his commentary "Words Have Consequences" on the Huffington Post Saturday. "So long as we all tolerate this kind of irresponsible and dangerous rhetoric or, in the case of some commentators, treat it with delight, reward it, and consider it cute, so long will we place all those in public life, whom the provocateurs dislike, in the crosshairs of danger."

Well said. I agree. But then I looked at the user comments that followed.

The readers completely disregard his message and continue to fuel the fire. They continue to blame and defend Palin, Beck, Obama and whomever else they're currently mad at or support. Like it's some kind of game.

I don't care that Palin's website had crosshairs pointed at Tucson. She hunts things. That's what she does. I don't care whether Randi Rhodes has actually talked about shooting public officials or not. It's not the words themselves that have power. It's us, the people, who listen to these words. That's what gives them power.

And this call to stop the violent political rhetoric won't actually happen until we, the people, take it away.

Who is really to blame for this toxic attitude in our country today?

We all are. We always want to shift the blame onto someone else. It's our nature. But it's time we owned up to the fact that, because we give these media mouthpieces our attention, because we tune in to those 24-hour news channels and boost their ratings, because we give their websites hits and listen to their radio programs and generate revenue for them, they play this political "us versus them" game. Because we've shown them that's what we want to hear (and I'm talking about mouthpieces on both sides of the political aisle. No one is without fault right now). And if we don't do something about it, it's only going to get worse.

I really wish that, instead of blaming Palin, (i.e. "Well this should be the nail in the coffin for Queen Sarah's career as a hatemonger") those readers who comment on Hart's post would replace Palin's name with their own and see how it feels. Hurts, doesn't it?

Palin's "hate mongering" only goes on because she thinks it's what you want. It is a reflection of you.

As Jon Stewart said during his Rally to Restore Sanity, "the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a fun house mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and (a butt) shaped like a month-old pumpkin and one eyeball."

So, stop looking into that fun house mirror. If you really want to see the rhetoric in Washington, D.C. change, if you really want to see the violence subside, you have to do more than simply ask the mouthpieces to stop saying these things.

You have to stop listening first.

Emily Whitmore is online editor and page designer for the Ahwatukee Foothills News.


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