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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Engrossing: Tucson: A tragedy not a political event

Published: January 21, 2011
Section: Opinions

I, like many of you, spent the majority of my winter break sitting on the couch, eating pizza bites and flipping through the channels.

While my tour-de-television was comprised primarily of bad daytime talk shows and reruns of “The Nanny”, I did occasionally flip by a news channel.

Most of the time, when this happened, I just kept on clicking until I found a suitably ridiculous episode of “Jerry Springer”; however, every once in a while, I took a detour from my regularly scheduled programming and, whenever I did, I was greeted by the soothing sounds of politicians and political pundits raving, throwing wild accusations and trying to attribute the negative news of the world to those who oppose them. The overall effect was ridiculous and only slightly more entertaining than the Lifetime Original Movie that I had passed up to watch it. Not surprisingly, I quickly lost interest, shook my head and flipped back to “Arrested Development”.

However, a few days before I was set to be awoken from my television coma and shipped back to Brandeis, an event occurred that drew my attention away from cable and to the news stations that had bored me just days before—the shootings in Tucson. When watching coverage of the events, I expected the political pundits that I had seen just days before raving like lunatics, reflecting on this tragic event. Instead I was greeted by what looked like reruns of the past weeks’ shows, fraught with dramatics and aspersions being cast between sides. I was immediately disturbed by this coverage but didn’t dwell on it for long, “Say Yes to the Dress” was calling.

Shortly after I first heard about the events of that Saturday afternoon, I had the chance to bring my television habit from the screen to reality by attending a live taping of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”.

With the tragedy in Tucson sitting at the back of my mind, I stood in the cold and wet, waiting to be admitted into Jon Stewart’s Manhattan studio to watch—in person—what many of you would see later that night.

I sat in the first row of the studio audience and clapped wildly when Jon Stewart finally made his first appearance to the set.

In his opening monologue, Stewart decided to step away from his typical shtick of making fun of the news, choosing to take a more serious look at the events of the weekend.

As it turns out, he took the words right out of my mouth, saying that “it would be really nice, if the ramblings of crazy people, did not in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on T.V.” He pleaded to the media to “at least make crazy individuals easier to spot” among the dramatics of modern news coverage and political punditry.

He went on to make the point that trying to assign blame for an incident like this, solely to a side of the political spectrum or even to the toxic political climate as a whole, is like trying to pin Columbine solely on heavy metal music. Stewart continues, saying “boy would it be nice to be able to draw a straight line of causation from this horror to something tangible, because then we could convince ourselves that if we just stopped this, the horrors will end,” and that is exactly what the politicians and political pundits are trying to do: to pin the blame on their opposition. Flipping to any given news station, it is a fair bet that the allegations that the radical right, and Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party, and Fox News, and talk shows, and the radical left, are to blame.

And, while it may not be an entirely original opinion, I think that it bears repetition. Politicizing the events that transpired in Tucson, just a few short weeks ago, doesn’t make them any less horrific and does nothing but disrespect those who were affected by the tragedy while doing nothing positive in exchange.

I believe that Stewart said it: “Wouldn’t it be a shame if we didn’t take this opportunity, and the loss of these incredible people and the pain that their loved ones are going through right now. Wouldn’t it be a shame if we didn’t take that moment, to make sure that the world that we are creating now, that will ultimately be shattered again by a moment of lunacy, wouldn’t it be a shame if that world wasn’t better than the one we previously lost.”