Using Tragedy To Further Political Goals

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By Nicki Kenyon, June 2nd 2014
JPFO writer contributor, © 2014.


Cindy Sheehan

Do you remember Cindy Sheehan? In 2004, the grieving mother drew national attention after her son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004. Her pain was palpable. Few of us can imagine what it's like to lose a child to violence, whether it's war or street violence or disease, and Sheehan tugged at a lot of heartstrings by demonstrating her agony far and wide...

At first.

The interviews came quickly and furiously. Sheehan spoke to one media outlet after another, and she became very stridently anti-war after her son's death. In 2005, she spoke at the opening of "Eyes Wide Open: the Human Cost of War," a traveling exhibition created by the American Friends Service Committee that displays pairs of combat boots to represent U.S. military casualties. She donated her Casey's boots to the cause.

Then things got progressively more strident. Sheehan began flaunting her grief and using Casey's death to further her politics. She stopped paying her taxes, claiming she paid with the life of her son, for whose death the government was responsible. She camped out in front of President George W. Bush's Crawford ranch for weeks, demanding an audience with the President, drawing thousands of supporters, media, celebrities and even members of Congress.

The interviews and media appearances continued. The media showed Sheehan as the face of grief in the effort to end the Iraq war. Sheehan began to act more erratically in an effort to draw more attention to her cause, including getting arrested several times.

Those of us who ached and hurt with her began to realize that she had crossed the line from grieving mother to opportunistic attention seeker, who was using the death of her son to give her credibility in the anti-war movement... and the economy... and domestic policy... and any other far left cause she espoused. She quickly became an object of derision, and all but the most strident leftists abandoned her.

Fast forward to today.

Last month, six college students were murdered by a privileged, spoiled, mentally unstable Hollyweird legacy kid, whose daddy was a movie director. The father of Christopher Martinez, who was one of the victims gunned down by Elliot Rodger, displayed his grief for the world to see, and we cried with him, we bled with him, we agonized and sympathized, because we couldn't imagine a heavier, more acute, more intense grief. Richard Martinez exemplified our worst fears. He screamed, cried and raged at the world – a world that spawned the socially deficient monster who murdered his child.

Richard Martinez

And yes, Richard Martinez raged at the NRA and the politicians who apparently did not do enough to stop violence in this country.

I did not want to deride Richard Martinez for his agony. It is easy to run with your anguish and lash out at the easiest targets. But this is where my sympathy ends. I no longer see Martinez as a grieving, tormented father who is lashing out in his moment of heartbreak. He has become another political opportunist who is using the death of his child to further a political agenda, and with the help of the media that is only too anxious to paint him as the new face of gun control, he's becoming less and less sympathetic.

Martinez lays the death of his son not at the feet of the murderer, but at the feet of the politicians who failed to do anything to stop what he perceives to be regularly-occurring mass shootings, because of NRA pressure. The media is only too happy to promote Martinez – much like they did Cindy Sheehan – as the face of gun control that could change the conversation and take on the NRA, whom they consider the ultimate evil that works to thwart any efforts to stop mass murders in the United States.

From his first public statement — a blistering indictment of "craven" politicians who refuse to act on even moderate gun reform — to the tribute to Christopher he delivered Tuesday before a crowd of thousands, Martinez has been willing to show his devastating grief to the world. He has made himself the anguished face of our broken system — the lives that it takes and the lives that it ruins. His vulnerability and righteous, focused anger is unlike anything we've seen in response to a mass shooting.

And it should scare the hell out of the National Rifle Association, the gun lobby and the cowardly politicians who use these deadly weapons as literal and figurative political props.

Speaking of political props...

Much like Sheehan, the parents of the victims are often used by politicians and the media as political props, because they're sympathetic, they're real, they're suffering, and only the most heartless of extremists would ever condemn them, right?

No. The sympathy is wearing thin, and quickly.

Two days after basketball star Isaiah Cousins survived a gang shooting, his mother Lisa Cousins made a public appeal picked up by the media. "They got to get rid of these guns."

Mark Kelly

Years after a madman shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and murdered several others, her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly is using the tragedy to advocate his political agenda and further his own career, even after he was caught purchasing the very same "assault" weapon he testified in favor of banning just a few days before. He paraded his injured wife on the national stage and took advantage of her tragedy to further his political goals.

Sandy Hook father Mark Barden... The parents of Christina Taylor Green... Aurora father Tom Teves... all used the deaths of their children to push gun control.

It should also be telling that the first thing the family of Eliott Rodger did after his murder spree became national news is put out the message through their attorney that they support gun control.

[Alan] Shifman said the family is "staunchly against guns" and supports gun-control laws. "They are extremely, extremely upset that anybody was hurt under these circumstances," he said.

While these people's grief is very real, so is their vulnerability. They make statements in the heat of distress, which are used to push a political agenda - a political agenda that will do nothing to prevent violence, whether committed with a gun, a knife, a car or a blunt object. And sometimes, as in the case of Mark Kelly, they use the tragedy to actively pursue their political ambitions.

And when their efforts do not result in the desired effect of ridding this world of evil, because banning or controlling a tool will not ban or control the evil in men's hearts, they will cry that the measures they advocated were insufficient, and they will rage and shriek for more of the same.

Richard Martinez spent the week shouting at the top of his lungs, blaming, raging, crying and ranting about guns, the NRA, politicians and the gun lobby being responsible for his son's death. If he continues to use this tragedy and the death of his son as a political bludgeon to destroy the rights of innocent Americans, he will be relegated to the loony bin of history along with Cindy Sheehan, whose latest claim to fame is a campaign for Governor of the state of California on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.

I would hope Martinez reconsiders doing a blood dance on his son's grave to further a political agenda which is both immoral and irrational.


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Nicki Kenyon has been an avid gun rights advocate since she returned to the United States from an overseas Army tour in Germany. She began writing about Second Amendment issues in 2001 when KeepAndBearArms.com published her first essay, "The Moment.". She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Arts degree in National Security Studies from American Military University. Her area of expertise in those fields is European and Eurasian affairs. When not writing about gun rights or hanging out with her husband and son, she practices dry-firing her M1911 at the zombies of "The Walking Dead."

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