Would the voices of the left be as quick to judge his motives? Would the voices on the right be calling for reason in discerning his motives? It’s impossible to know, of course.
As it stands now, the choice in most minds appears to be whether we consider Loughner simply a deranged young man or a pawn in a political movement that spews violent rhetoric. But both points of view reveal an inescapable fact about U.S. culture. Had the killer's name been Lopez, race and ethnicity would be the centerpiece of the story.
Not a single voice in the furor over Loughner's motivation has suggested his ethnicity had anything to do with his actions. Had the shooter been a Latino, all arguments would begin with that question.
Most mainstream Americans are tone deaf to the fact that their ethnicity is the "default" setting for U.S. culture. This culture accepts a great deal of latitude for the personal behavior of individuals -- as long as they are non-Hispanic Whites. But once you cross over that line into the realm of "other," you become a representative of your race or ethnicity. Minorities are presumed to have a single mind politically and the deeds of a few represent the deeds of all.
Until we evolve past this mentality, race and ethnicity will continue to be a central issue in every aspect of U.S. culture. To say otherwise is to echo the words of Ronald Reagan: "I can remember a time when this country didn't have a race problem."
For Mr. Reagan, it certainly did not.