Who would have thought that out of the mouth of a cop would come an impassioned attack on the nation’s media – primarily TV and radio – for poisoning social discourse in this country? Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik maintained his composure and poise and anger in his electrifying press conference this morning on the Tucson killings. He didn’t raise his voice and he didn’t back down in his stunning attack on the media, charging it with destroying our values, dirtying our society and encouraging the vileness and violence in human nature.
Mr. Dupnik hoped that all Americans were as saddened and shocked as he was by the killings and shootings. Then a slight pause, and then, from out of the blue, ……”and as angry as I am, because it’s the vitriolic rhetoric we hear day in and day out that has made this country not the nice USA that we grew up in. When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol about tearing down the government . . . . the anger, the hatred, the bigotry in this country is getting to be outrageous. Unfortunately, Arizona has become a Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
If you ask me, Mr. Dupnik held his own with the great French writer Emile Zola, whose “J’accuse!” newspaper piece in the 1898 Dreyfus Affair has become a common generic expression of outrage and accusation against powerful destructive forces. The difference is that Emile Zola was a leading French thinker and intellectual of his time – no one was surprised that he acted as a guardian of the moral fabric – and Mr. Dupnik is “just” a law enforcement man. Some “just”! Both of them proclaimed the truth “with all the force of the revulsion of an honest man.”
It’s 9 o’clock now and the television and radio talk shows are still clucking away about the “vitriol” and how we have to tone things down. Maybe it will last and maybe not, but they definitely heard Mr. Dupnik. No one had the guts to say it out loud until now, and I read a little while ago that his “Mecca” line is being scrubbed from the Internet. But his amazing words have reverberated around the country. I guess it’s a little sad that it took a catastrophe like this to have someone say what’s so obvious. But the fact is that another sheriff could well have gotten up there and not said a word about the poison let loose in our country.
Bravo, Sheriff Dupnik.