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Panel weighs in on Arizona shootings

Straight Talk for Teens column
By: Lauren Forcella, Special to The News Messenger
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Dear Straight Talk: I’m curious how young people feel about the shootings in Arizona. Politics has taken on an “us versus them” mentality. Hate and sound bites prevail over real conversation. Each side tries to prevent the other from accomplishing anything. Also, how do young people deal with philosophical differences among their peers? ~ Richard, Toledo, Ohio Peter, 23, Monterey: I think the shooter was crazy. I think the situation was a tragedy. I don’t know if politics played any role but Jon Stewart put it best when he said, “It would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn’t in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on TV.”  I understand why Sarah Palin and others get defensive when they’re accused of influencing this situation, but if they conducted themselves more like adults, versus going to such extremes when making their political points, they wouldn’t have to worry about comparisons. Matt, 16, Villa Park: When I first heard about the shooting, I was in shock. The media, unfortunately, jumps to bold conclusions. Arizona politics have been very heated, but to say this incident was caused by divisive politics is dangerous. Jared Loughner shared neither an allegiance to the Republican or Democratic Party. He was disturbed, unstable and reclusive. My prayers go to the victims, their families and the Loughner family. Leif, 21, Berkeley: I had many different responses to the shootings. I’m less proud of my disgust that this vile human did something terrible to “us” (the Democrats). I’m more proud of my thought that this occurrence is a symptom of our society and that my actions constantly contribute to that society.  Katelyn, 16, Huntington Beach: The violence in Arizona was tragic. Some think it was caused by the shooter’s background or political standpoint, but that won’t bring anyone back, and since everyone reacts differently to things, it won’t prevent future shootings either.  As for respecting other people’s philosophical standpoints, I try to listen even if I disagree. But even if I simply point out something I don’t understand, I’m usually automatically labeled as narrow-minded. I’m sorry to say that I’ve experienced this with very normal people who don’t need politicians to show them how to throw hate around. Emily, 16, Fair Oaks: The suspect had serious mental problems. However, the divisive political climate could have played a role. Politicians and citizens today are often unwilling to compromise for the sake of moving forward. An example is when, after the health care bill passed, a Republican official pledged to avoid cooperating with Democrats for the rest of the year. (This sort of stupidity has been seen in both parties.) How old are these people? Judging by how they conduct themselves, they have the maturity of spoiled toddlers. Is it pride? Stubbornness? It just doesn’t make sense. When another student voices political opinions I disagree with, I usually keep my mouth shut. Arguing over politics generally accomplishes nothing. Nobody will see the other side. Dear Richard: It’s an honor to share the panelists’ viewpoints on this topic. I’ll share mine as well. Political leaders act like “spoiled toddlers” because it gets them press coverage — and thus donations. But mentally unstable constituents aren’t exactly rare. If our leaders whip them into a frenzy of hate, it effectively shuts democracy down. Who will run for office if everyone is afraid of being killed by a mental case for expressing their views? Politics hasn’t always been this uncivil and divisive. It used to be OK to even be friends with someone from the “other side.” Ronald Reagan was best friends with Tip O’Neal. Orrin Hatch with Ted Kennedy. Perhaps this tragedy is the wake-up call Congress — and everyone — needs to return to civil discourse. ~ Lauren For more discussion, to ask a question, or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit www.straighttalkforteens.com or write P.O. Box 963 Fair Oaks, CA 95628.