January 9th, 2011
03:09 PM ET

Letters to the President: #720 'Tragedy in Tucson'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama and many other government officials have expressed great sadness for the people shot during the attack at that political rally in Arizona, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Dear Mr. President,

There is of course nothing else to say. What happened in Tucson was cruel, senseless, and unutterably sad. We can and will look for meaning, and we may find out plenty about the how, the where, and the who, but I suspect we’ll find next to nothing to answer the why.

I’ve covered many mass shootings; and the gunmen often have some wild, personal explanation for their actions. Voices in their heads. Too much reading of conspiracy theories on the internet. Substance abuse and mental illness. Ideology run amok. A victim complex. Timothy McVeigh saw himself as a soldier in a great cause. So did the 9/11 terrorists. Many times, so do school shooters, and workplace gunmen, and the enraged person who slaughters his family.

But like I said, their explanations are the words of fools or lunatics. The moment they pick up a gun or make a bomb they remove themselves from the civilized debate.

If we lived in a country where speeches were caged, democracy unknown, and basic legal and human rights routinely denied, perhaps such folks would have a case. But we do not. When they take up their guns against “tyrants” here, they are fighting phantoms and exposing their own ignorance of real tyranny, or perhaps their mental illness.

Who knows what we’ll ultimately learn about this case anyway? Maybe we’ll find out about other factors that drove the slaughter. I don’t expect that they’ll make such sense.

But I have no doubt that as you and so many others here and in Arizona mourn, millions and millions of Americans stand with you - united, despite our differences, in condemning the cruelty that takes lives and maims our fellow citizens even as they try to take part in the democracy we all must prize.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Esther Souza

    We can do better we must do better!!

    January 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  2. Ronnie

    No, Tom – there isn't much left to say about the tragedy in AZ that took people's lives – it put me in tears.
    But I will say this – that the political Right has done their bit in upholding the nuttiness that passes as political discourse which of course deftly appeals to the Nuts!! I'm unhappy with the journalists who DON'T call Hate speech just what it is...and then they wonder why bullying in schools continue when these juvenile bullies are only copying the rhetoric they hear all around them.

    January 10, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  3. Catherine Risch

    Why is this senseless mass murder being portrayed as yet another opportunity for the polititcal parties to point fingers at each other? This was obviously a very ill young man who was in desperate need of appropriate healthcare who did not get it. Why did he not receive the proper medical treatment when he had been exhibiting signs of need for so long? Did he not have health insurance? Did he not have the money fro the proper care? Where are his parents, his family? Why are there no people coming forward who knew him well? This was not just an assassination attempt on a political figure; it was an open act of violence on society as a whole. Children, senior citizens and innocent bystanders were all harmed. This is a very sick individual, not just a lone assassin with a political agenda.

    January 10, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  4. Annie Kate

    When politicians, the press, and the public spew political hatred and intolerance towards each other there are results to the rage and hatred that seems to be prevalent in our country today. We don't have civilized discourse; we have character assassinations. We all need to tone it down; remember that words can inspire and not always in good ways. This incident may be one of the products of our bipartisan bickering – mentally unstable people listen and then they act. We can discuss our ideas in a polite way that doesn't give impetus to the insanity of acts like that in Tuscon AZ.

    January 10, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  5. Gerald

    Sarah Palin & her "Tea Party Mentality" has 'aided' in the Arizona tragedy by placing "Rifle Crosshairs" on a Map of her Political enemies. Now some "Tea Party Sympathizer" has acted on her "Mental Suggestion"

    January 10, 2011 at 7:02 am |
  6. gmacody/omaha

    Omaha just faced one the worst school shootings in our history. Yesterday Arizona. I feel angry, and to those who say don't place blame on the parents, school,radio,TV "pundits and commentators", etc. I respectfully ask, WHY NOT? Doesn't someone, someplace, sometime have to accept responsibilty for their actions and the RESULT of their actions?? Please don't get me wrong, I FULLY believe the person shooting the gun is to blame, but who shares fault? Who influenced his decisions, could it just be the ones who spew hate speech, could it be you, me, us??? Parents need to suck it up and absorb the pain of disciplining their child to teach them cause and effect, and maybe our world will be better for the next generation.

    January 10, 2011 at 2:34 am |
  7. J.V.Hodgson

    Hi Tom,
    Dupnik, said it all.
    When in the name of free speech lies half truths and vile, virulent rhetoric and Images ( palin cross hairs) and often racist and bigoted comments are freely bandied around in the media, and then later on pretend to be doing thier job by "keeping them honest" or reporting some independent other agency who has proved it untrue or half true, then to me this is not journalism as it lacks a key principle of integrity and at least trying to verify facts properly before publishing. Bloggers can do the hate mail if they wish/must but face Libel and slander if its untrue.
    You want examples of what I mean:-
    Look at all the " names" given to the
    President and you just publish them. It should be a simple rule, you want to mention the President and have a blog published give him his proper name or title or it is not published.
    Death panels.
    Birther commentaries, bloggers still getting run. Stop hiding behind freedom of speech do your research and take a firm position: this Organisation no longer publishes what it believes to be untrue, unless you blogger et al have incontrovertible evidence to prove your point, or go find such proof yourselves.
    The likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, Fox news, and MSNBC on similar types of program are a disgrace even to freedom of speech.They use
    vile and virulently divisive rhetoric at least.
    Also CNN conducting political polls which leave out 18-34 year olds is a disgrace, lacks integrity, and undermines the whole validity of the Polls results.
    Also much of the cable 24hour news is very repetitive and is propogating that which turns out to be a lie/inaccurate.. no wonder X% still believe President Obama birth evidence or as invalid and negatively.. the courts do not.

    January 10, 2011 at 1:11 am |
  8. franchi

    tragedy in tuscon. I do not believe this is a security issue. But a health and specifically a mental health issue. We need a new paradigm in this country. we need to figure out that the Bible is not "the list nor are the 10 commmandments. Because obviously it's O.K. to kill people that are "for" abortion, that are for "health care" and it's also O.K. to sleep with your own or your brothers daughter! people are so confused and I'm done hearing the Bible or The constitution quoted. Either mental health or education please.

    January 10, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  9. Steve in CA

    Isn't the person who yells fire in a movie theater responsible if someone gets killed when the crowd tramples some one. Sarah Palin was one of those fire shouters and should be charged as an accessory to these murders. Using incendiary language is like loading the gun with bullets and encouraging the killer to fire. That it was ok to do it. We have had enough of this unlawful behavior. Her actions require her to take some responsibility.

    January 9, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  10. Merle Dunn

    Tom you are so right again. One of the first
    reports was that he was a trouble maker & make have a mental illness. This man knew exactly what he was doing, but the remark about mental illness will give a smart attorney what they need to claim mental illness as a defense, I
    pray this young man gets what he deserves, he
    took innocent lives who were just trying to do
    good for our country,now it is time for justice to give him what he deserves death. Maybe it will send a message to others who think they too can do the same action.

    January 9, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  11. Debbie

    Dear Mr. President,

    I am feeling very sad for our country. I am sorry for the SENSELESS loss of life in Tuscon.

    I am thinking of you as a friend to Congresswoman Giffords and as the president of this great country. My prayers are with you.

    My concern...as seen in the Virgina Tech shootings and now apparently with this shooting, the shooter had a psychiatric history. There were people who questioned the mental stability of both of these young men. Why are these people allowed to get guns? I hope one day there will be more constraints on the purchasing of firearms. I know this is a great cause of debate and a very "hot issue"; but, people are dying everyday from all the violence.

    Is it the violence of video games, music, lack of a home structure. How can we make a difference and reach out to our fellow Americans?

    I am proud of our country and the democracy we have-we should be thankful and I feel blessed everyday; but I am cautiously concerned.

    January 9, 2011 at 7:13 pm |