09 January, 2011

What Did You Think Would Happen?

In my home state of Arizona, a man loaded a gun, picked up a knife, and went to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's first Congress on Your Corner.  While she met with constituents at the local Safeway, he walked up behind her and put a bullet through her head.  He then proceeded to kill as many people as he could.


Thirteen others he shot, and he had the bullets for dozens more.  But two people at the event tackled him.  They put themselves at risk to save others.  Everyday heroes, doing what had to be done, saving who knows how many people.

It should never have been necessary.

Intern Daniel Hernandez, who had been working for Rep. Giffords for just five days, ran toward the gunfire.  He checked the wounded and dying, applied what first aid he could to Rep. Giffords (likely saving her life in the process), gave instructions to those who were trying to assist the injured, and stayed by Giffords' side until they reached the hospital.  Later, he said, "Of course you're afraid, you just kind of have to do what you can....  It was probably not the best idea to run toward the gunshots, but people needed help."

It should never have been necessary.

Rep. Giffords is still alive, and has a chance to recover.  She had some of the finest trauma surgeons in the country there to save her life.

It should never have been necessary.

There are already far too many people ready and eager to attribute this assassination attempt to a lone nut, a deranged individual, a mentally-ill freak.  He may be those things.  We don't know much about him yet - we know that he displayed some pretty fantastic paranoia about the government, but he had enough wits about him to plan for this.  We know he targeted a Democrat in a Republican-rich environment.  And he had plenty of people to egg him on.

Sarah Palin, who scrubbed this from her website today:


And who tweeted this:


What did you think would happen, Sarah?

Giffords's opponent in the November elections, Jesse Kelly, held a little event over the summer:

What did you think would happen, Jesse?

Sharron Angle said, "... if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around?"

What did you think would happen, Sharron?

I could go on.  But some of the insanity's been neatly gathered in one place here, and there's just too much of it to keep up with.  If you've paid any attention to politics in the last two years, you already know what I'm talking about.  The eliminationist rhetoric, spewed by political leaders on the right, parroted and amplified by Faux News and hate radio and right-wing blogs.  We're swimming in a sea of hate.  The vast majority of the Republicans have been winding their base up, associating with people who should be anathema in American politics, even trying to hire right-wing hate radio hosts who said,
“I am convinced that the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendments rights was they gave me a Second Amendment. And if ballots don’t work, bullets will. This is the standoff. When I say I’ll put my microphone down on November 2nd if we haven’t achieved substantial victory, I mean it. Because if at that point I’m going to up into the hills of Kentucky, I’m going to go out into the Midwest, I’m going to go up in the Vermont and New Hampshire outreaches and I’m going to gather together men and women who understand that some things are worth fighting for and some things are worth dying for.”
They will stand before you tomorrow, and the day after, and as long as it takes them to remember that a man put a bullet in Gabrielle Giffords's head, and tell you how tragic, how unexpected, how utterly awful this was.  But they had just spent years telling their followers that bullets were the answer.

So I ask them again:

What did you think would happen?

Because this is what you told Americans you wanted.  And some Americans are mentally unstable enough to believe you, and to act.  They aren't lone nuts.  They aren't simply crazed individuals.  They have Republican politicians and Fox News and right-wing hate radio, Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh, whispering and shouting and screaming in their ear that liberals are killing America, that our President is a crypto-Muslim socialist who will bring fascism and death panels and FEMA camps to this country. 

And the unbalanced few decide to act.  What else did you expect?

What did you think would happen?

There's a responsibility that comes with free speech, with being a political leader or media figure.  There's a responsibility to realize that if you create a rhetorical climate in which all liberals are enemies worthy of death and destruction, if you wind up fear to a fever pitch, if you convince people that America is on the brink of total destruction if something is not done right now, if you literally paint targets on your political opponents, you are creating the conditions necessary for someone to act out the violence you suggest.  You are, in part, responsible for their acts.

You make it necessary for people to tackle gunmen, run into gunfire to save as many as possible, for trauma surgeons to do their best to save the lives you've helped destroy.

You helped kill a nine year-old girl today.  A federal judge.  A social worker.  A pastor.  Two old women who were just going to the grocery store.

You tried to kill a Congresswoman.  And even if she comes out of this with her life, even if by luck and by quick-thinking interns and incredibly skilled trauma surgeons she survives with minimal permanent brain injury, she will always bear scars. 

Sixteen other people will bear scars with her.  Some of those scars won't be visible, but they will always be there.

You, on the right, you helped make this happen.  You.  The left has nothing like you.  The leaders on the left do not go around casually talking bloody revolution and assassination.  You do.

And a man did your bidding today.

Are you proud?

10 comments:

Suzanne said...

you put into words what i was unable to.

thank you

Dan McShane said...

The people that used this rhetoric were warned. They simply did not care.

george.w said...

So well said.

Our culture is one of violence, driven in part by the violent rhetorical style of the FOX News network and such popular corruptions as 24.

Nicole said...

Amen.

Thank you for articulating so well what so many of us have been trying to say since what happened.

And I agree with george.w. Our culture is rife with violence. And if you don't follow along with that violence, you're a "hippie" or wishy-washy or a pansy or whatever other derogatory term people can come up with to try and make you feel bad for being less than violent.

And people wonder why we need so many domestic violence programs in our nation.

Cujo359 said...

Palin's little targets and her casual references to firearms aren't the problem, at least in and of themselves. It takes a lot more than that to turn people hateful. It takes years of blaming particular groups of people for problems that they, in most cases, didn't have the power to either create or fix in the first place. Without that, those little Palinisms would be nothing more than amusing examples of rhetoric that's big on testosterone and short on thought.

Unfortunately, none of the people you mention is going to accept responsibility for this, and individually, they're right. No one person made this guy start hating those particular people. Who knows what he ultimately would have done. He might have spent too much time watching Stargate and decided that his Representative was a malevolent space alien. That last video of his shows a remarkable disconnect from reality. Unless someone made it a point to wind him up and set him loose, I doubt that anyone in particular can be blamed.

Sarah Palin is no more responsible for that than Martin Scorsese is responsible for the assassination attempt on President Reagan. Expecting her, or anyone else on that side of the political spectrum, to show any sense of responsibility or remorse for this is an exercise in futility. Damn few on our side would if the situation were reversed somehow.

What I keep concluding after these things is that it's really foolish to let people who are that unstable have unsupervised access to firearms. How to change that without making the government even more powerful than it already is, I don't know, but that's about all I can conclude.

That, and we're no safer in a society where everyone can carry a gun if he wants to. Pretty clearly, "everyone" includes too many people who can't handle the responsibility.

Cujo359 said...

Palin's little targets and her casual references to firearms aren't the problem, at least in and of themselves. It takes a lot more than that to turn people hateful. It takes years of blaming particular groups of people for problems that they, in most cases, didn't have the power to either create or fix in the first place. Without that, those little Palinisms would be nothing more than amusing examples of rhetoric that's big on testosterone and short on thought.

Unfortunately, none of the people you mention is going to accept responsibility for this, and individually, they're right. No one person made this guy start hating those particular people. Who knows what he ultimately would have done. He might have spent too much time watching Stargate and decided that his Representative was a malevolent space alien. That last video of his shows a remarkable disconnect from reality. Unless someone made it a point to wind him up and set him loose, I doubt that anyone in particular can be blamed.

Sarah Palin is no more responsible for that than Martin Scorsese is responsible for the assassination attempt on President Reagan. Expecting her, or anyone else on that side of the political spectrum, to show any sense of responsibility or remorse for this is an exercise in futility. Damn few on our side would if the situation were reversed somehow.

What I keep concluding after these things is that it's really foolish to let people who are that unstable have unsupervised access to firearms. How to change that without making the government even more powerful than it already is, I don't know, but that's about all I can conclude.

That, and we're no safer in a society where everyone can carry a gun if he wants to. Pretty clearly, "everyone" includes too many people who can't handle the responsibility.

Don McCumber said...

Well thought out... well researched... well written. Thank you.

Tanya said...

Thank you for putting some context to this senseless tragedy.

Chris Rhetts said...

OK, I might as well add my 4 (adjusted for inflation) cents.

What we are witnessing is a rapid decline of American society and an ignorant public desperately looking for scapegoats. It isn't the first time in history this has happened and it certainly won't be the last.

Recently, Rush Limbaugh signed an 8 year, 400 MILLION dollar deal with Clear Channel. And where do you think this money is coming from? Frankly, bigotry and vitriol have become big business and opinion makers on the right are pushing the envelope to cash in. I doubt if even half of these idiots actually believe the vicious, irresponsible rhetoric they are putting out. But hey, why offer tofu when their market is demanding red meat?

Dana, it really isn't the Jan Brewers, Sarah Palins, Sean Hannitys, and all of their like who are causing tragedies like this. Pests like these will always be with us. The real enablers are the millions of citizens who buy into the disgusting fantasies these people create.

Woozle said...

Which problem is easier to fix -- the hundreds of pests who fill the market for scapegoats, or the millions who believe those accusations because they believe whatever they see on Fox?

I'd go higher up the ladder: the media owners who encourage the whole thing. The media oligopoly needs to be broken up.