I have many thoughts on this topic. I could write a long post analyzing it, but I don’t feel like it. Most of the responses from conservatives depress me. So, I’ll just share some videos that I found interesting or insightful. But, first, let me share some quotes from a few articles and a letter that one of Giffords’ cousins wrote to Sarah Palin (if you want to see my own reflections on this incident and my own commentary on gun rights and regulation, I wrote another post that can be found here):
Yes, there are people who called Bush a “modern Hitler,” or believed he had some role in the 9/11 attacks. Those people are generally not given talkshows, and cannot be found in positions of power in the Democratic Party.
In fact, there is no balance — none whatsoever. Only one side has made the rhetoric of armed revolt against an oppressive tyranny the guiding spirit of its grassroots movement and its midterm campaign. Only one side routinely invokes the Second Amendment as a form of swagger and intimidation, not-so-coyly conflating rights with threats. Only one side’s activists bring guns to democratic political gatherings. Only one side has a popular national TV host who uses his platform to indoctrinate viewers in the conviction that the President is an alien, totalitarian menace to the country. Only one side fills the AM waves with rage and incendiary falsehoods. Only one side has an iconic leader, with a devoted grassroots following, who can’t stop using violent imagery and dividing her countrymen into us and them, real and fake. Any sentient American knows which side that is; to argue otherwise is disingenuous.
These individuals no doubt have a range of relationships to reality, and their ideologies may likewise vary from Tea Party orthodoxy to idiosyncratic conspiracy mania. (One person on the list appears to be a genuine ecoterrorist.) But it’s hard to deny that this seems like a remarkable amount of political violence in a little more than two-and-a-half years. (This impression is bolstered statistically by reports that the Secret Service has had to deal with a 400 percent increase in threats against the president, that U.S. Marshals are facing double the number of threats against judges and prosecutors, and that Capitol Police found that threats against congressmembers tripled in the first quarter of 2010.)
Even more strikingly, this violence corresponds to a period that has seen a major change in the boundaries of political rhetoric from both pundits and politicians. A major media figures like Glenn Beck (Fox News, 2/20/09) can now fantasize about “citizen militias in the South and West taking up arms against the U.S. government”–and he could declare that government officials bent on forcibly vaccinating his children are going to “meet Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.” People with regular slots on major networks didn’t use to talk this way. Nor did major-party Senate candidates declare that “people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.” (See the Coalition’s complete list for many other examples of media and political figures evoking violence in explicit, non-metaphorical statements.)
People who insist that the Tucson massacre has nothing to do with any of this are engaged in a desperate and dangerous denial.
Dear Sarah Palin:
I am writing today about how you are responding to and how you will respond to the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the murders of six other people.
By way of introduction and background, I am a cousin of Congresswoman Giffords. I am also an ally of Dr. George Tiller, the Kansas doctor who provided abortion services and who was assassinated on May 31, 2009.
When the Congresswoman’s offices were vandalized after her vote on healthcare reform, I wrote to her. As I recall, I congratulated her on her strong spirit in the face of that attack and other threats. I told her that I was proud of her courage on behalf of health care reform and sorry that she had to show the same courage as those who provide health care to pregnant women who need abortions and other reproductive health care services. Both have been the subjects of hateful, vitriolic language. Both have been put in rifle crosshairs.
In the aftermath of the murder of Dr. Tiller and the attempted murder of Congresswoman Giffords, many have spoken out about the role that hateful language played or might have played in encouraging these acts of violence. Immediately after Congresswoman Giffords was shot, many people voiced concern about such things as your “Take Back the 20” map targeting congressional districts of those representatives, including Congresswoman Giffords, who voted for health care reform by placing their districts in the crosshairs of a gun sight. Commentators have also noted your advice to people disappointed in the outcome of the 2008 elections to “lock and load” and “don’t retreat, reload.”
As I am sure you are now aware, Congresswoman Giffords herself had expressed concern about your map in particular. She said: “We need to realize that the rhetoric, and the firing people up and … for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, the way she has it depicted, we’re in the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize that there are consequences to that action…”
Your response so far, has been to defend the images and language you use. In an e-mail to Mr. Glenn Beck you said, “Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and violence.”
Ms. Palin, the moment calls for more than this. I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment and of your right to defend your words and to challenge those who seek to connect them to the assassination attempt and murders in Tucson, Arizona. I also know that there is often a very long distance between words and actions.
But even if your map and your language had nothing to do with these murders or any others that might occur in the future, a compassionate response would acknowledge that possibility and indicate a willingness, in her honor, in honor of the people who died, to consider this concern.
Whether or not you are willing to take this concern seriously, it is, nevertheless a critical moment to clarify your beliefs and principles. Now is the time to answer these questions and lead.
Do you believe it is appropriate to bring about political change in America through the use of or threat of violence?
When you suggest targeting candidates, use gun-sight crosshairs to do so, and speak repeatedly about guns, locking and reloading do you mean that violence is or could be properly used to encourage or ensure certain outcomes of elections or legislative votes?
If you do not mean literally that elected officials should be targeted with rifles and threatened by political activists armed with loaded weapons, whatdo you mean? What should politically frustrated Americans do when their views are not prevailing?
Throughout the course of history people have demonstrated that the most effective change comes through non-violent action. Many of us believe that the most courageous leaders and activists are those who are willing to be attacked for their beliefs not those who threaten to attack.
Ms. Palin, if you are among those who believe that political change can come about non-violently, without hate, violence, or the threat of violence, now would be an excellent time to say so.