by: Gary Hardaway

Almost thirty years ago, John Hinckley shot and critically wounded newly elected president Ronald Reagan, along with Press Secretary James Brady, DC policeman Thomas Delahanty, and Secret Service agent, Timothy McCarthy. The would-be assassin was later found legally insane and has spent the past three decades in confinement.

There was no room in Hinckley’s fevered brain for political ideas. His crazed obsession with movie star Jody Foster filled his dreams and fantasies day and night. They formed a bizarre vision that intoxicated and impelled him to carry out the shooting. In his distorted, convoluted world, his act would so impress Jody Foster that she would irresistibly love him as he loved her. Such a dénouement was worth any price. It soon became clear that Hinckley was terribly disturbed and unfit for human society.

Now another Hinckley, afflicted by madness, has arisen and perpetrated a similar act – from some incomprehensible motive known only to him. That motive lies deep in his twisted, disintegrated psyche. Maybe psychiatrists will find a way to probe those murky depths and extract some insight. If so, it won’t make sense; it will baffle us and cause us to shake our heads in sorrow and pity for one so disoriented.

Despite the obvious, we are now being inundated with political rhetoric denouncing – guess what! – political rhetoric! Young Jared Loughner, we are told, is a kind of victim, an all-too-passive imbiber of dangerous right-wing “hate speech” being “spewed” by talk radio and the Tea Party and Sarah Palin and conservative blogs. This is an astonishing rhetorical feat, a huge case of the pot calling the kettle black. That all this is presented in mainstream media as serious public discourse is worse than irresponsible. It is shameful.

It is shameful to reshape the image of a heinous crime into a partisan political message and trumpet the message all over the land in an attempt to squelch critical discourse. It is shameful to pretend that this event is about politics instead of morality and insanity.

The country needs to understand the truth of 9/11, that there is evil abroad, that when evil strikes we must deal firmly with the evildoer, the one who did the deed. Whether Loughner is capable of understanding the evil he perpetrated, we don’t know. But we know he is the one who did it – not Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin OR Keith Olberman or Barack Obama who famously declared, “if they bring a knife, we bring a gun.”

Recently a Christian woman in our church reminded me of a Scripture so very applicable to these tension-filled times: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” It was good of her to bring this prayer to my attention and good for us all to consider how best to fulfill it.

Gary Hardaway, a regular contributor to the Amy Internet Syndicate, directs Summit School of Ministry in Bellingham, WA.