Saturday, January 8, 2011

Swimming Against the Tide

Ken Rudin is absolutely correct in his understanding that speculating about the motive for the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) is more or less a waste of time. But constructing narratives is how we make sense of our world. Whether it's those to the political left claiming that the shooter was a member of the Tea Party, those on the political right claiming that he was a radical liberal or the theory that it was an Islamist radical that did the deed (or just speculating on a traffic accident that we pass on the road, for that matter), all of these are attempts to fit the story into a greater worldview.

We can regret that people don't wait for the facts all we want. But the simple truth remains. To paraphrase, of all things, Futurama: "Unexpected things make people feel scared." Pointing to a disliked out-group as violent, and holding this up as proof of their wickedness, takes some of the scary out of life. In light of this, it seems pointless to ask people to avoid self-soothing behaviors. No matter how much mischief those behaviors might cause down the line.

No comments: