Sunday, January 9, 2011

The shooting of a Congresswoman

There is a lot of opinion flying around the political cybersphere in relation to Saturday's horrifying shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords was shot in the face, at point blank range, and then the gun man open fire on the crowd that had assembled outside a Safeway shopping market for a Congress on your corner event. Six of those present were killed in the shooting, including a 9-year-old girl and the Chief U.S. District Court Judge for Arizona.

Those on the left were quick to point the fingers at the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party was quick to distance itself for the shooting.

And sadly, the 22-year-old man being held in the shooting has not been very communicative with law enforcement so there is no real answer as to whether or not this shooting was politically motivated or if it was the result of a mind troubled by mental health issues. The Shooters YouTube channel certainly supports the later, although the rhetoric is very similar to posse comitatus anti-government thinking and his claims that Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto raises questions as well.

But ultimately, the shooting raises significant concerns about the violent tenure of political discourse in America. You might remember the terrorism calls during the Obama McCain Presidential race in 2008. Or the racist and homophobic slurs hurled on members of Congress during the health care vote. You might even recall Sarah Palin's Sarah Pac releasing a map of 20 districts of Democrats to target. Each district was highlighted with a rifle site. Or perhaps you recall the threats leveled at Rep. Bart Stupak or Rep. Mark Schauer in 2010. And who can forget Palin's "Don't retreat, reload" rhetoric?

All of this is here and a part of the political discourse, and whether or not the 22-year-old accused shooter was inspired by this rhetoric directly or not, this rhetoric does give mental permission to see our congress and other elected officials as enemy of the state worthy of assassination. And that is a problem. Disagreement is part of politics. Finding a bridge of compromise is the ultimate sign of functional operation of government.

The question becomes, are we as Americans ready now to discuss the violence of our rhetoric in politics, or are we going to continue calling on the worser angels of our being and then act surprised when those worser angels lash out in violence?

I wish I had an answer to that. I really do.

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