The Psalmist writes (in Psalm 64): "Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from the plots of evildoers...They shoot from ambush at the innocent; they shoot suddenly, without fear."
On ABC's This Week yesterday, George Will astutely observed that despite our rush at times like this to search for social or political explanation, the reality is that some people just become "unhinged."
I would go a step further and invoke the Psalmist's use of "evildoers," a word the politically-motivated liked to chide George W. Bush for using, but a word fairly straightforward to scriptural writers. The depth of darkness is unmeasurable in some people's souls, as it appears to have been in the case of the Tucson shooter. He was described by friends as fun to be around at times, but also as an unstable conspiracy theorist. He drank himself over the edge, held bizarre views, and became increasingly more bizarre in his behavior as time went along.
But, as is often the case, people didn't really see the shooting coming. It proceeded out of a dark, indescribable place within him.
The left inexcusably leapt on Sarah Palin and the Tea Party as explanations for this tragic event. This is a common type of response among those who see everything through the lens of political ideology. Sarah Palin's "crosshairs" must have prompted the shooter to act out, Keith Olbermann is sure, and Markos Moulitsas's Twitter rant, along with the immediate reaction of other left-leaning bloggers, shows just how unhinged political commentary can get. People with outsized views of political influence can find no other explanation. Enough already.
This has evoked a response on the right, and rightly so. But writers on the right have been quick to point out that an acquaintance of the shooter described him as "left wing" in his views. This, too, means very little in terms of what motivated him.
It's correct to look at his views of 9/11, his reading of Mein Kampf, and so on, to try to understand what kind of political ideology might have motivated him - if any. But it's wrong to try to construct some political worldview that makes sense to those of us who spend time thinking about political worldviews. Some people don't act out of a political ideology they heard on Fox News or MSNBC. Some people just do bad things, motivated by what we cannot understand, and self-justified by random, semi-connected thoughts on all kinds of topics.
The Tucson shooter strikes me as such a person. He doesn't fit in any pundit's box. Many evildoers don't.
It's time to lay down lay down the political arms, allow the grieving to grieve, and look to those - pastors, teachers, psychologists - who have a richer understanding of the human condition than the chattering political class to help us make sense of this terrible situation.
This article was cross-posted at The Guardian.