This is a political website; obviously, people here can and perhaps should be expected to tinge everything to fit their own ideological point of view. Sometimes, though, some things occur outside of ideological bases, and it doesn’t make sense, to me at least, to try to color everything that happens based upon our political point of view. I believe that what happened last weekend in Arizona was a heinous tragedy, as I’m sure most people do, no matter where they place themselves on some ideological Likert Scale.

The guy who committed this massacre cannot be considered ideological, at least in the sense that I understand the term. He’s demented; I’m unsure if demented people could ever be accurately represented as liberal or conservative. Likewise, 30 years ago, when John Hinckley shot President Reagan, I can’t recall people claiming that he was either liberal or conservative; instead, then people understood that he was crazy. I guess that that was a different time, though.

I’m also unsure of the ideological point of view of the heroes who mitigated his damage. I’m pretty sure though that it doesn’t matter, at least to me. When a fireman comes to protect my house, I don’t care what his ideology is, it doesn’t matter to me. When I get my car repaired, I don’t care what his ideology is, it doesn’t matter to me.

I’ve spent most of my adult life studying and writing about American elections and political institutions. Over time, I’ve met with and studied a number of elected and appointed officials, as well as a number of interest group leaders. I admit I’m biased; I genuinely like them, at least most of them. They want to improve our country, at least in their eyes. A loss of anyone who wants to improve our nation, whether we agree with their point of view or not, is a loss for all of us. We need people to determine our policies who are not afraid that the actions that they take or the words they speak will lead to some delusional individual deciding that their irrational beliefs are more important than those of the rest of us.

I think a lot of us believe that liberals and conservatives necessarily hate each other. That’s not the way it works in real life, only the cartoonish version that exists on cable television or talk radio. Politicians and interest group leaders generally like each other, whether they agree with them or not. The only politicians who aren’t liked very much by their peers, I’ve found, are those who either grandstand or lack any intellectual curiosity.

There will soon come a time when we will examine the political and policy implications of the aftermath of this. I assume some gun control advocates will call for more governmental actions; I assume some will seek more policy actions be taken to determine people’s mental health status more accurately. I assume some people will seek more funding for mental health treatment and medication. Those are all legitimate arguments in any democracy. To me, at least, this tragedy is no more an object for ideological debate than was the Challenger disaster. Sometimes, we need to put aside our ideological differences and pray as one.