Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tucson

Vitriol might be free speech, but it's not without consequences. - Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik
     Not a book review this time.
     Yesterday, this country experienced a terrible tragedy, a mass shooting in Tucson.
     But this wasn't a random shooting, and Jared Lee Loughner may (or may not) be a lone nut, but he wasn't operating in a vacuum. We've been "treated" to three years of increasingly amped-up, over-heated, violent rhetoric, defining one party as unAmerican, unpatriotic terrorists, and using explicitly violent terms and images to describe the proper behavior towards those people.
     Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Blue Dog Democrat representing a district the Republicans expected to take back in November, was shot in the head at point-blank range. Against all reasonable expectation, she's alive, out of surgery, and reported to be doing remarkably well.
     We're all grateful for that--including the people who saw nothing wrong, and apparently still see nothing wrong, with putting out a map of "targeted" districts for the last election, with gunsights used to indicate those "targets." Despite the frantic back-peddling now, claiming that the graphic is a surveyor's sight, not a gunsight, at the time, Sarah Palin followed up the map with a tweet to her followers, urging them to "don't retreat, RELOAD!" In an interview that's chilling in hindsight, Gabrielle Giffords talked about the death threats and harassment she'd received after the gunsight map went public. Rep. Giffords' opponent in that race also held a rally and fundraiser in which the bait was that supporters would get to fire an M16, to "help take out Giffords."
     Judge John Roll, the chief federal judge in Arizona, lived in the neighborhood and walked over to say hello. He was a Republican, appointed in 2006 by George H. W. Bush. Last year he ruled that a civil rights lawsuit by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher could go forward. After that ruling, he received death threats and was under high security protection by the Federal Marshals Service for a month. He was killed on Saturday.
     Christina Taylor Greene was nine years old. She was very interested in politics, and attended the Giffords event to learn more about the political process. Christina was born 9/11/2001. She was shot and killed Saturday.
     Gabriel Zimmerman was Giffords' director of community outreach. He was thirty years old. He was shot and killed Saturday.
     Dorwin Stoddard was a pastor at Mountain Ave. Church of Christ. He tried to shield his wife by laying on top of her when the shooting started. She was injured; he was killed. He was 76.
     Dorothy Morris was 76.
     Phyllis Scheck was 79.
     Thirteen other people were injured. Not all names have been released, but Ron Barber was Giffords' deputy director, and Pam Simon was a Giffords staffer. They are both expected to be all right.
     This was a great tragedy, and a terrible shock. Is it enough of a shock to quiet some of the extremist rhetoric?