Sunday, January 9, 2011

Consequences

A disturbed young man with a gun went on a shooting rampage outside a grocery store in Tucson, killing six people and wounding 14 more. The dead included John Roll, the chief U.S. district judge in Arizona. The target, however, was U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was holding an event to meet constituents in a Safeway parking lot.

Mass shootings occur with dismaying frequency in America. What made this one especially troubling was its connection to politics. Rep. Giffords, a moderate Democrat, was universally liked and admired on both sides of the aisle. But in the mid-term election last fall she kept her job only after her seat appeared on Sarah Palin’s attack list, which literally showed incumbents in the crosshairs.

Today, as Rep. Gifford lies critically injured after being shot in the head, her response to Palin’s dangerous diatribe last fall makes for eerie reading:

“[W]e’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action.”

No one is suggesting that there was a direct, cause-and-effect connection between Palin’s reckless rhetoric and the gunman who shot Giffords - suspected to be 22-year-old Jared Loughner. Clarence W. Dupniak, the Pima County sheriff suggested, however, that pundits and purveyors of hateful political discourse should take a hard look in the mirror.

“People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol that we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech. But it’s not without consequences.”

Intentionally or not, the sheriff’s statement thus echoed elements of the one Rep. Giffords made when her district showed up on Palin’s list.

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