(Photo: Houston Marsh / Flickr)
While conducting a town hall meeting in Tucson, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) was shot in the head Saturday. She struggles for her life in an Arizona hospital. Giffords was among 13 people wounded in the melee that killed six, including Arizona's chief federal judge, a 9-year-old girl and an aide for the Democratic lawmaker. The country prays for the recovery of the individuals who were wounded and morns the loss of those who have died.
It has been reported that the attack was carried out by 22-year-old Jared Loughner. His motivations are unclear at this time. Officials are looking at his MySpace page, YouTube videos, and other web postings looking for a motive. Some postings indicate Loughner is a very troubled individual. He posted the following on YouTube, "I know who's listening: Government Officials and the People ... Nearly all the people, who don't know this accurate information of a new currency, aren't aware of mind control and brainwash methods ..."
There is no nexus or direct connection between Loughner's attack and the inaccurate, hateful and inflammatory language that is being accepted as responsible political dialogue. One cannot deny that anti-government and anti-Obama rhetoric contribute to a dangerous undercurrent in treacherous political waters.
Let's be very clear, this is not the first time deranged Americans have lashed out against the social order. Most recently, in 1995 Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier bombed the Murrah building in Oklahoma City killing 168 and wounding 450. Anti-abortion violence killed Dr. David Gunn in Florida in 1993, and Dr. Barrett Slepian was murdered in his home in New York in 1998. The difference today is that seemingly responsible politicians and political commentators are contributing to this problem by injecting irresponsible, hateful, political diatribes into the political discourse.
This is not a First Amendment "free speech" issue. This is a matter of responsible Americans demanding a higher standard of dialogue and holding individuals accountable for the inflammatory, fear-mongering diatribes that have become accepted as legitimate political speech.
Former GOP vice-presidential nominee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin posted a map on her Facebook page that used gun sights to indicate Congressional seats that her PAC was "targeting" for the mid-term elections. Coincidentally, Palin listed Congresswoman Giffords seat as one of the top "targets" because of her support for health care reform. Palin regularly calls for her supporters to "Reload!" during her speeches. There's no evidence that Loughner ever saw this site or heard a Palin speech, but we know that sick individuals like Loughner thrive like bacteria in environment of political hatred.
Palin also tweeted her endorsement of an article by Thomas Sowell that compares President Obama to Hitler. She also argued that President Obama's establishment of a BP escrow fund could result in his administration embracing Nazi-like dictatorial powers. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) has made similar Hitler-Obama comparisons.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) and Mike Huckabee have called President Obama a socialist. To call President Obama a socialist or compare his actions to those of Adolph Hitler is inaccurate, irresponsible and dangerous.
At the Tea Party "code red" rally against health care reform in Washington, protesters carried signs stating "Warning: If Brown can't stop it, a Browning can," referring to Sen. Scott Brown's (R-Massachusetts) health care vote and a Browning firearm. On Saturday, March 20, 2010, as Rep's. John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri) were leaving the Cannon office building, they encountered members of the Tea Party protesting the health care reform bill. As the protesters exchanged words with the Congressmen, some of the protesters called them a "nigger" and spat upon them. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) was called a "fagot."
Republican leadership has refused to repudiate and disassociate themselves from the dangerous and incendiary comments of their surrogates. Instead, they seek to improve their political position by riding the wave of anger caused by fear and prejudice. They have been conspicuously silent for too long. Through their silence they are betraying America.
By allowing threats of violence to become an accepted form of political persuasion, violence is becoming part of our political reality: the hate that hate-filled speech produces.
As Dr. King once said, "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."