Sunday, January 9, 2011

arizona assassination attempt

the irony that my last post asked the question of whether we are too safe, and that that question was forcibly answered in the negative the next day in the situation of the shooting of arizona congresswoman gabrielle giffords, is not lost on me. we are still waiting to find out what led to the attempt on her life that led to the deaths of 6 people and the injuring of others, and we may never "know" why it happened. in a very real sense the "why" doesn't matter: all that matters is that jared lee loughner opened fire on a number of people at a public event. that's reason enough to punish him and ask ourselves how a repeat can be avoided in the future.

there are certain dangers for which I'm glad we have. I want to live in a world where if I go too far into the wild I might get mauled by a cougar or bear, where if I swim in the ocean I run the risk of being attacked by a shark or stung by a jellyfish, where if I ski or trek the high mountains I could be swept up in an avalanche. by the same token, I want to live in a world where I am relatively safe from the murderous impulses of other people.

there are, of course, no guarantees. people kill, sometimes for reasons even they can't articulate. that's how we're wired and sometimes the wiring gets damp and sparks fly and a 9-year old ends up dead. but just as I don't appreciate faux-gangstas or real ones suggesting someone ought to pop a cap in my ass, neither do I appreciate political operatives using terms like "reload" and "2nd amendment remedies" or suggesting someone ought to take out someone or targeting opponents using sniper imagery. to do so is simply wrong, as shouting "fire!" in a crowd when there is no fire is wrong.

is it unfair for me to use a charged image like the photo of a young victim of an attempted political assassination to argue that the rhetoric of conservatives in this country has gotten out of hand? yes it is. so what. the fact remains that while we moan about the death of civil discourse real people have been dying. there is no leftist equivalent of the tea party or glen beck or sharon angle or sarah palin and the last right wing american politician to have been shot was ronald reagan. there has been a concerted effort on the part of conservative commentators to pin a target on the backs of liberals and leftists and whether loughner was a listener to rightist radio is moot. radio and television commentary has itself become a weapon, and like any weapon it must be handled with respect. its use has consequences.

only some of the names of the injured have been released but the 6 who died have been identified:

Christina-Taylor Green, 9
Gabe Zimmerman, 30
John Roll, 63
Dorothy Morris, 76
Dorwan Stoddard, 76
Phyllis Schneck, 79

that these people have died should give us all pause. we must temper our rhetoric.

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