Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve already heard all about the attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday. As happens every time something like this takes place, pundits and politicians wasted no time trying to pin affiliation with the shooter on the other side and just generally blaming each other for creating the conditions that motivated the gunman.
I didn’t write about it immediately because I knew that if I did it would end up being just as knee-jerk an entry as the rest of what was taking place, but now that I’ve had time to think about it I’ve decided that it doesn’t really matter whether or not the gunman — 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner — was a liberal or a conservative. It’s not like his actions reflect some intrinsic moral failing of either side. From what little the media has been able to dig up about him all we can ascertain is that this was a man with mental problems out to cause death and destruction for no good reason. When the dust settled 6 people were dead and 14 were wounded. Among the dead was a 9-year-old girl who was born on September 11th, 2001 and a Federal Judge. Among the wounded was Rep. Giffords herself who remains in stable, but critical condition at the hospital. Loughner himself is looking at the death penalty on a couple of the charges.
As I said previously, there’s been a rush on both sides to point the finger at the other. Republicans in general are taking a lot of flack for the overly-heated rhetoric they love to use supposedly being the impetus for the shooter. They, in turn, are trying to find anything they can point to to show that Loughner was one of those icky Liberals. I’m not sure politics had much to do with it when you consider that Loughner’s grudge against Giffords was because she didn’t answer a nonsensical question he posed to her at a previous event in 2007. The question he had asked was: “What is government if words have no meaning?“ That doesn’t seem to suggest a political motivation. That suggests a he’s-batshit-insane motive. In this case I think both sides get a pass.
Which isn’t to say that I don’t consider the rhetoric from Republicans these days to be on the batshit insane side. While I don’t think it necessarily played a part in this particular tragedy, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest it has in other similar events. Those links are only a sample, there’s many more out there.
You rarely hear Liberal politicians and pundits describing Conservatives as being evil or out to destroy America or traitors. Nor do you hear them using overtly violent rhetoric suggesting that folks might have to use “Second Amendment remedies” if they’re not happy with the outcome of an election or putting up images of maps with crosshairs “targeting” Republicans running for reelection. It’s not that it doesn’t come from the Left on occasion, but it comes from the Right much more often. You don’t have to take my word for it, just attend any major Tea Party or Republican event and you’ll — literally — see the signs for yourself.
Yes, I know it’s supposedly just hyperbole and most of the Conservative pols and pundits using such talk probably don’t intend it to be taken literally, but the fact of the matter is that some of their devoted followers do take it seriously and, in point of fact, feel it’s an appropriate approach to take with us evil Liberals. If I had a dime for every time a Conservative had threatened to kick my pansy-Liberal ass I, well, I wouldn’t be rich per se, but I’d be much better off financially than I am.
Personally, I’m sick of being told that I’m a traitor that hates America and wants to see its destruction. That is quite simply not true. I’m not a big fan of guns outside of the virtual realm, but there are moments when I wonder if I shouldn’t arm myself just in case one of the Conservatives who write me nasty emails decides it’s time to apply a Second Amendment remedy to my ass. In a supposedly civil society we — and by we I mean Liberal and Conservative — shouldn’t have such concerns. You don’t have to be happy with my point of view. You don’t even have to like me. But to suggest that I am somehow evil and want to destroy the country I love because you disagree with my politics is beyond the pale. To go further and suggest that violence is an appropriate response to me exercising my rights to vote for whom I want to vote for or advocating for policies I feel are good for society is abhorrent. Yes, I am a Liberal. Yes, I disagree with you on a number of issues. That doesn’t make me, or you, evil. Stop acting like it does.
As for the aftermath of this particular event, you won’t hear me advocating for more restrictions on Freedom of Speech or the Right to Bear Arms (or even to Arm Bears if you’re so inclined). The Conservatives are free to continue to talk like gun-crazy, violence-addicted asshats if they really want to, but you should realize that the right to Free Speech doesn’t include the Freedom from Responsibility for What You’ve Said. Sooner or later such talk will come back to bite you in the ass either directly or indirectly. I also don’t think more gun control would’ve changed the outcome of this particular event as some folks are suggesting. I’m not opposed to more gun control, but I also don’t think it’d stop nutcases from killing people.
Tragedies like this and the various other shooting rampages are part of the price we pay to have the right to bear arms. Perhaps someday enough of us will consider the cost too high and things will change, but until then you can expect more of this yet to come. I doubt we’ll ever see a day where civilian gun ownership is outlawed completely because it’s too ingrained into our national character, but perhaps we might try to make things a little tougher for the folks who would use them to do great harm.