The Thinking 

When a Woman is Attacked by an Assassin

January 10, 2011



Gabrielle Giffords

FRED OWENS writes:

We should elect old men to Congress — craggy, musty old men. And if they got shot, it wouldn’t feel so bad. Gabrielle Giffords is a pretty young woman, and no doubt she is capable and intelligent, but I feel protective toward her and it hurts me more to think of her critical wounds than if she was a man. Jared Lee Loughner, the man who shot her, is crazy and evil. It matters little whether he is right-wing crazy or left-wing crazy.

Laura writes:

I’m not sure about old men necessarily, but men are more suited to higher political office, and not because women are incompetent. Leaving aside other more important reasons, there is danger involved. A man’s life is not less valuable than a woman’s, but something in us instinctively feels greater offense at a woman being attacked than a man and that something is a realistic awareness that women are less capable of defending themselves.

Fred writes:

I have seen this with female cops. They are a hair short in their instinctive reaction to threats.

But I don’t offer that statement with any evidence. It is my own instinct that tells me that. What we often discuss on this website are the different instincts that men and women have. We are rational beings and should never be ruled by our instincts, but we should not deny them either. [Laura writes: The longer reaction time of women is not merely a hunch, but based in biological differences.]

Men feel protective toward women. Women feel nurturing toward men. The distinction is far from absolute, and we should certainly be willing and able to be protective or nurturing as the situation demands, regardless of our sex. Nonetheless, nature will have its due, and man must accept his fate under the rule of heaven.

I submit that if a craggy, musty old man had filled that seat in Congress, espousing the very same views that Gabrielle Giffords preached, he would not have been shot at, and if he had been shot at, we would not suffer as much in contemplating his wounds. And I say old man not only because of the wisdom that comes with age, but also because we — I am getting to be an old man myself — are expendable.

                                                                                                                           — Comments —

John E. writes:

Fred Owens writes, “I say old man not only because of the wisdom that comes with age, but also because we — I am getting to be an old man myself — are expendable.” 

I guess this frequently-stated phrase, that men are expendable, makes sense from an evolutionary psychological perspective, but not at all from a religious, specifically Christian, perspective. 

This pagan (or perhaps extremely scientific) phrase also leaves me scratching my head as to why it is almost always asserted that Christianity raised only the dignity of women, as if men’s dignity had always and everywhere been recognized in its fullness. While Christianity has indeed helped us understand better the true dignity of women, I think it is more markedly true of men in relation to Christianity than women. Before Christianity, a man’s life only had meaning based on how gloriously he died. Only after Christianity could we really conceive the worth of an individual man’s life, and this without disposing of the idea of a good death.

Laura writes:

The idea that an old man is expendable, either because he is old or because he is a man, is repugnant.

That is an interesting point about the glory of the pagan hero’s death. I am not sure that is entirely true that a pagan man’s life “only had meaning based on how gloriously he died.” Even so, to the Greeks and Romans, a dead hero lived on in the minds and hearts of his descendents and the hero’s life had meaning not simply because he died gloriously but because he fought to preserve something lasting. They did not welcome the hero’s death.  Still, I see what John means. In the Christian view, death may be heroic but never good.

Fred writes:

When I wrote “expendable” I was being too dramatic. Any death by murder is repugnant. But my other point was that the “craggy, musty old man” might not have inflamed the homicidal urges of this crazed young man — and why is that?

Also, why are mentally healthy people, such as myself, comfortable with the image of an old man serving in Congress, but not adjusted to the image of an attractive young woman in the same prestigious position?

Thomas F. Bertonneau writes:

The great married hero is Homer’s Odysseus, who would rather not go to war against Troy but does so despite himself because he has an obligation to King Agamemnon, and who labors mightily for ten years after the victory to return home to his wife and son.  Saint Basil of Caesarea (Fourth Century) recognized in the nobility of Odysseus something of a pagan anticipation of the dignity of the Christian man ennobled through marriage and rewarded by parentage.  Penelope and Odysseus are well mated; she is, in feminine terms, as heroic as he, but that heroism has limits.  Penelope cannot clear out the notorious “suitors” and will sooner or later have to accede to their scheme.  Homer makes it clear that the man, in his role as warrior, is necessary to resolving the crisis in Ithaca.  He does so by main force.  Odysseus emphatically does not wish to die.  He wishes to live – particularly to live in companionship with the wife from whom he has been separated for twenty years.  Simone Weil called Homer’s Iliad “the poem of power.”  I like to think of the Odyssey as “the poem of civilization.”

Jesse Powell writes:

I am glad that the issue of Gabrielle Giffords and the assassination attempt against her has come up here. I find it odd and disturbing that the target of this assassination attempt was a woman and that the person getting the most political heat as a result of this attack, accused of promoting violent rhetoric that may have contributed to the assassination attempt, is a woman as well, Sarah Palin.

One sixth of current house members are women; is it just a coincidence that the person targeted in this case was a woman or did the sex, good looks, and kind demeanor of Gabby Giffords enrage the gunman especially? I view this assassination attempt as a spillover of the many mass shootings that have taken place in recent years; this is a mass shooting with an explicitly political target but overall it fits into the general category of mass shootings of which there have been many. 

The phenomenon of women being prominent in public affairs is a sign of a sick society that does not honor and uphold the natural authority of men and the phenomenon of mass shootings is similarly a sign of a sick society, a society that produces a small number of hyper-alienated men that are so extreme in their anti-social rage that they choose mass shooting, killing as many people as possible, as their final act. 

Tragically, in this instance, the phenomenon of the female politician and the male mass shooter collided with each other, producing the obscenity of the gravely-wounded young woman politician falling victim to the young man’s anti-social, indiscriminate homicidal rage.

A. writes:

Congresswoman Giffords needs our prayers. She needs them for her recovery and for her stance on abortion.Click here for Gabby Giffords on the issues. 

Just as urgent are prayers for Judge John Roll. I have personally witnessed his attendance at daily Mass for many years. 

There is a saying “Only in Tucson,” when something out of the ordinary happens. Tucson is home to the weird and Tucson needs prayer also. It is no surprise that such a deranged and probably paranoid schizophrenic young man grew up in this grunge city with its most prominent public statue that of the bandido Pancho Villa and its streets lined with tattoo shops, murals reminiscent of Marxist art, bong stores and so on. Tucson celebrates diversity, but rarely does one hear about commonalities.



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