Monday, January 10, 2011

From Political to Religious Finger Pointing in Tucson

The nonstop news cycle continues to grind on with its coverage of the Tucson shooting tragedy. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for various individuals to begin pointing fingers of blame and assuming an understanding of influences if not causation.

While the rhetoric continues in terms of blaming political ideologies, a new wrinkle was added today as reported by The New York Daily News. They have obtained photographs from the accused shooter's backyard, including what the media is describing as an "occult shrine or altar". It is visible in the photograph accompanying this post where an artificial skull (possibly a Halloween decoration), some decayed fruit, and candles are visible alongside a bag of potting soil. What can we determine from this? Not much. The potting soil indicates an interest in gardening, and the candles an interest in a light source (with a measure of ambiance), while the artificial skull may reflect an interest in decorating from the recent Halloween holiday. We surely cannot ascribe this to our stereotypes of "evil occultists" usually formed by horror films and television, and my hope is that few in the media will pick up on this in continuing media coverage of the crime. But with the prevalence of alleged "occult experts" out there, it may have a little more life left in it. Here's to also hoping that some might gain a more academically informed awareness of Western esotericism.

Update: For good Pagan perspectives on this see Star Foster's "Tragedy in AZ: Candles and Oranges Do Not an Occultist Make", and Peg Aloi's "Why must the occult be seen as evil?".


Scott Eggert said...

Great call John. Everybody is grasping at straws here. I myself was taken back to hear of his reading the Communist Manifesto.

Just last week I downloaded Selected Essays by Karly Marx. Who knows what they'll say WHEN I twist off.

Will they notice that copy of Encountering New Religious Movements I have on my office shelf?

Snoozepossum said...


I think a big problem is that people seem to insist on there being a rational reason for everything a person does, even if they've been ID'd as bona fide loopy. Since "irrational" sorta cancels out "rational", I don't get this, but people do it. And any articulatable reason seems to be preferable to having to say "I don't have a clue", no matter how tenuous it is. If you can attach it to something other than your self, so much the better.

John W. Morehead said...

I agree about the lack of a rational explanation for everything. It seems clear the shooter was psychologically unstable, yet we always grasp for rational explanations or try to put someone in the irrational category as a rational explanation. Some things are beyond the rational, as hard as that is to live with. At any rate, let's stop pointing fingers at politics and religion as scapegoats.