Yesterday Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was wounded in a shooting in Tuscon that took the lives of six other people, including chief Judge John M. Roll of the federal district of Arizona, a Giffords staffer and a nine year old child. In total, 17 people were shot. Upon hearing about the news, my immediate instinct was to find someone to blame. We’re all human, scapegoating is a natural human tendency. And who, in my mind would make the most logical, convenient target? How about the likes of Sarah Palin, Sharon Angle, the Tea Party, and any other Republican that’s gone off on some Second Amendment, ‘from my cold dead hands’ tangent over the past year?
If you guessed that’s what I did, you’re right. And I thought about it for a bit before I ended up changing my mind. The fact of the matter is that assigning blame to them is not only non-constructive, it’s illogical and inaccurate.
Political violence is deplorable. But it’s inevitable in a democracy, particularly one such as ours, which has a fairly rich history of it. From assassinated Presidents to members of Congress, mayors and governors, pretty much everyone who has occupied public office in this country has, at a minimum, been subject to at least a death threat. It’s, sadly, par for the course in a country that’s as free as ours, both with respect to the right to bear arms, and the freedom of movement.
And while the initial temptation is to point the finger at the Tea Party and their ilk, this isn’t their or Sarah Palin’s fault. Make no mistake about it, I think the woman is absolutely tasteless not only when it comes to her website that sported a bullseye over Rep. Giffords last year (which has subsequently been taken down) but most of her policies as well. I think the Tea Party is wrong. I think they’re ill informed. I also think that they’re usually willfully ignorant to the point of being stupid, but I don’t think that they want to see Democratic legislators dead.
Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged attacker, is not playing with a full deck of cards. Take a look at the video that he posted. For as gratifying as it may be to place the blame at the feet of Sarah Palin et al, it’s just not right, either in the logical sense, or the moral one. This Loughner character is nuts, and nobody, not Sarah Palin nor Sharron Angle nor any other Tea Partier could have restrained this man from doing what he did.
If there’s to be any kind of silver lining that comes out of this, I hope, fervently, that members of both parties can agree on reigning in the more conservative extreme elements out there, and that what we see in the days and weeks to come is a period of rhetoric that’s not quite as strident, not quite as vitriolic, and one in which violence or the threat of it doesn’t occur, at all. Because even though extreme statements from the far right of the GOP didn’t cause this, it sure as hell didn’t do anything to prevent it.