Closed minds: Nothing to see here
The media have tried very hard to make the attack on Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs into a crime committed by a lone wolf..."kept to himself"..."motive was unclear"...move along, nothing to see here. It reminds me of the successful effort to make the Tucson attack on Rep. Gabby Giffords, which killed six including federal Judge John Roll, into the mindless work of a madman. Move along, nothing to see here.
In the case of the latter, author Tom Zoellner wrote the corrective A Safeway in Arizona, putting the rampage squarely into the context of Arizona crazy and specifically the violent threats against Giffords in the election campaign of 2010.
The conceit about the former was made more inconvenient when Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat and former mayor of Denver, labeled the crime "a form of terrorism." It is important to call things by their correct names.
Nor is it out of the right-wing mainstream. Planned Parenthood (whose central Arizona chapter was founded by Barry Goldwater's wife, Peggy) has long been a culture war target. Women seeking to exercise their constitutional rights on reproductive issues have faced a long and growing series of attacks. Notably, in the 1990s, Father Richard John Neuhaus, an eminent conservative intellectual, wrote an essay in his journal First Things that defended "lethal force" against abortion providers and even implied insurrection against the federal government was the moral response to Roe vs. Wade.
So there is plenty to see and we shouldn't move on.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine recently wrote a fascinating piece on the precipitous decline in swing voters. The result is a nation where people don't change their minds, divided "into semipermanent, warring camps."
Thus, President Obama spoke eloquently after the Newtown shooting, where 20 children and six adults were murdered, saying, "I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change...We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change." But at least half the country, and probably more of the electorate, wasn't willing to change, wasn't even listening to the Kenyan socialist pretender in the White House.
More shootings followed, some by "madmen" and some overt and obvious political acts as in Colorado Springs (a hotbed of the right) and, before that, in Tucson.
My intent here is not to relitigate Roe. According to the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Better-off women will be able to procure the procedure safely no matter what, so I am not persuaded by the Cathi Herrods of the nation. Planned Parenthood provides a vast array of services beyond abortion. Show me a backward nation and I'll show you one where women are denied control of their bodies.
I'm more interested in how America can address the monumental and complex challenges already enveloping it, from throwing away treasure and lives on military adventures to scandalous inequality and climate change — how can it even function when nobody changes his mind? Specifically on the right, such as denying science and supporting presidential candidates who are serial liars.
Americans have changed their minds before, at least enough Americans. Think of slavery, reining in the robber barons, creating and extending the social safety net, abandoning isolationism to fight the Nazis and Imperial Japan, eliminating Jim Crow.
We're not that same nation. I don't see how this ends well.
This column first appeared on Rogue Columnist.
Jon Talton is a fourth-generation Arizonan who runs the blog Rogue Columnist. He is a former op-ed and business columnist of the Arizona Republic, and retired as the economics columnist of the Seattle Times in 2019. Talton is also the author of 12 novels, including the David Mapstone Mysteries, which are set in Arizona.