The violent and hate-filled rhetoric that has become no much a part of our life did not pull the trigger that killed six people — including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl — and left an Arizona Congresswoman fighting for her life Saturday.

These senseless acts came from a deranged man who equated violence with political action.  It came from someone who saw violence as the most-efficient way to resolve differences.

While the hate-filled rhetoric did not actually commit the act, it did provide the fuel that has turned an Arizona Safeway into a bloodbath.  It fueled the hate that defines political differences. It showcased a condition that has turned this nation into an intolerant environment where differences of opinion are settled not with words but with fists, hate, threats and — in some cases — death.

Whether it is a doctor blown to bits because he provides abortion procedures legal under the law or a coward who terrorizes those with differing political opinions, the very existence of hate has no place in a democracy.  It has no place in a nation founded on the principles of politiical and religious freedoms.  It has no place in a place that calls itself the “land of the free.”

Yet it happens — far mods often than it should. I sent a man to the hospital with a broken jaw last years simply because he took a swing at me over something I had written about Sarah Palin. He missed. I didn’t. His goal was not debate but payback.

Political candidates issue posters with their opponents in rifle-scope crosshairs.  We kill in the name of “freedom” and leave bodies on the ground and call it “God‘s will.”  In war, success is measured through body count.

Don’t misunderstand. I own — and use — guns.  I grew up in a family of hunters. Americans like me take lives because a U.S.government employee with a higher pay grade orders it done and because someone, somewhere, declared it necessary, legal and the right thing to do.

But who made the decision to end the life of a nine-year-old girl or that of a federal judge? Who decided that a member of Congress needed a bullet through her brain?  Who determined that death from a 147-grain bullet was a righteous shoot?

The correct answer, of course, is no one. The deaths in Arizona were not legal or sanctioned. But that technicality does not bring a single one of those six people back to life.

Even so, death — even when sanctioned, legalized or blessed at the hand of God — is still death and a society where death becomes an acceptable solution to a problem is a society that — itself — died long ago.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ,,

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Doug, all these links are obtrusive and annoying. I already know what “death,” “legal” and “Sarah Palin” means. Any way you can suppress at least some of them?

  2. I was unaware that any link between rhetoric (political, hate-filled, or otherwise) and the shooting had been established. The shooter appears to have been pretty out there and had some run ins at a community college that suggest he may have some mental health issues. Is there any evidence that the shooter was spurred by political rhetoric or is this speculation? I am sure a more full picture of who the shooter was will come with time as will the inevitable questions about what might have been done to identify and stop the killer before the attack.

  3. During the last presidential election cycle the Right knew full well that it was fostering hate. They utilized it like a well-worn tool. Whether or not this particular incident is a result of that makes little difference. They have still fostered an atmosphere of hatred and bigotry and neither the Left nor the media ought to give up on naming those responsible for such an atomosphere.

  4. Mother Jones has an interview with one of the shooter’s friends who explains why he was fixated on the Congresswoman.
    http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/01/jared-lee-loughner-friend-voicemail-phone-message
    According to the article the shooter asked the congresswoman a far-out question a few years back at a similar event which she would not answer. This friend claims that the shooter became angry about the incident and would complain about the congresswoman (and how he was slighted by her) often. The article is worth a read.

    I still have found no evidence in any news article that heated political rhetoric influenced the shooter in any way, but that hasn’t stopped people in the media from making that assumption. Maybe some ties to right wing rhetoric will come out at some point, but I fail to see how blaming the speech of people (even political blowhards) for a murderous rampage makes sense without some real evidence.

  5. At this point, we can only be armchair psychologists with regard to the reasons behind the Tucson shootings. From media reports, it does appear that the gunman had a very serious mental illness.

    However, Sarah Palin’s “gunsight cross hairs” over certain politically targeted districts is irresponable, hostile and potentially deadly.

    Two things are for certain: He was not a liberal Democrat, and he was definitely not a Quaker. Lesson to be leanred here, folks. Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek.”. Jesus was the messenger of peace. He heralded the dawn of a new age — over 2,000 years ago! His message of peace was that we should not engage in violence of any sort, including war. Two thousand years ago…how long will it take humankind to get his message?

  6. Years ago, newscasters reported the facts and left the public to make their own decisions about how they felt about it. We only had a few major networks and there seemed to be a standard amongst them that this was how it was done. Now, we have lots of different networks that “report” the news, except many of them put their own slant on it….Just this alone can color the way people feel and often it is colored with fear, discrimination, and partisanship.

    • rio: It isn’t just the networks, but the bloggers, posters that participate on bulletin boards, talk show hosts on TV and radio that traffic in high temperature rhetoric, plus the viewers, listeners, and callers that created this climate, and those who should be the most responsible among us, our elected leaders are often the source of the language. Can anyone say that John Doe of Organization X said such and such which set off this killer? No, but it is easy to look around and see the various voices that created this atmosphere, and draw a safe conclusion that the sum total of them created the tipping point that pushed him to act, with deadly results.

  7. this nut had several run ins with the local sheriff…why was he allowed to walk the street…is the sheriff not as responsable as rush limbaugh?? why did the local mental health orginizations not have this guy in a mental health ward?? is their failure to deal with him not as much at fault aqs anything sara palin did or did not do??

    there is no creadable evidence the killer listened to, followed, or even knew who rush limbaugh, sean hannity, or glenn beck were. there is abundant evidence that the same reporters who urged we wait till more facts were known about the fort hood killer before judging him have rushed to judge this incident as caused by poeple the media disagrees with.
    in my opnion this incident was done by a lone nut job…and politicized by a vulture media eager to score political points any way they can, even to the point of blood libale

    • Trying to put blame on the sheriff, while I do agree law enforcement must have failed by letting him obtain his weaponry, does not forgive the kind of rhetoric accepted as OK today. You can say that their is no credible evidence that provides a solid direct link between the someone’s statement and this the shooters actions, and that is probably true, but that is not even close to what is being described as a cause, which is the whole climate created by the top down pattern of violent imagery routinely used by the right, although not exclusively. It created the climate that let a mentally defective individual come to the conclusion that murder of his perceived enemies was not only acceptable, but a desirable thing to do.

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