Monday, January 10, 2011

Shooting of a Congresswoman Not Political?

The shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others is a terrible event.  It is the sort of thing that should never happen, but it also doesn't seem all that surprising.  Given the vitriolic rhetoric coming from the right wing about "evil" Democrats, such a thing was bound to happen.  Giffords's district was apparently even marked with a bull's-eye as a representative to take out in the recent elections on Sarah Palin's website.  And after voting for President Obama's healthcare reform bill, her district office was vandalized.  Despite this, I heard someone speaking on NPR today say that this assassination attempt was "not political;" it was just the act of a mentally ill man.

I won't disagree that this man seems to be mentally ill.  Nonetheless, he choose his target for a reason, and I don't think you can reasonably argue that it wasn't a political reason.  Last night I also read a comment on facebook arguing that his actions were not the result of Tea Party and right wing rhetoric -- again he's just mentally ill.  Well, I won't say all the blame goes to those spouting this unrestrained rhetoric because we each have to take responsibility for our own actions.  However, when we hear this rhetoric all the time (I don't want to hear it, but I seem to bump into in the media and life), someone who is mentally unstable might begin to assume that his actions would be accepted by others, and consequently, be more likely to act improperly.

So, while it is true that we don't know the motive behind this crime, it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility to think that the shooter holds to right wing conservative ideologies.  And it is certainly not hard to believe that he doesn't like Democratic ideology.  Thus, whatever propelled him to commit this egregious crime, it was at the very least a political crime.

Finally, whether this man listened to and believed the right wing rhetoric or not, this incident has brought to the forefront the possible consequences of such hate-filled rhetoric.  I firmly believe in the First Amendment right to free speech (limited only when it presents "clear and present danger"), and there are some instances in modern American society where I feel free speech has indeed been wrongly limited out of a sense of political correctness.  However, even though we have the right to spout ideas of hate, perhaps it is time for us as individuals to stop and think before we do so.  Do we really want to live in a world filled with so much hatred, disunity, and tension?  Do we want our children to grow up in such a world?

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