I was riding in the car with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We were going to visit a friend who is dying. We had this conversation:
“I just don’t understand why politics has become so vitriolic,” she said out of the blue.
In my mind, I quickly ran over a long list of suspected reasons, but what came out was this:
“I’m not sure. That there seems so little regard for facts is a part of it. Truth is whatever one chooses to make it, and its validity is verified by how often, how loudly, and how angrily one shouts it.”
“The disregard for facts and hatred has consequences,” she said as we arrived at the home of our friend.
That conversation took place on Friday, before the shooting in Tucson on Saturday.
Sunday morning, an aide to Sarah Palin said that the crosshairs depicted in her now infamous list of Democrats were not actually gun-sights:
"We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights. It was simply cross-hairs like you'd see on maps," said Rebecca Mansour on the Tammy Bruce radio show. Moreover, there was "nothing irresponsible" about the image, and to draw a line connecting Palin and Saturday's shooting is "obscene" and "appalling."After the passage of Health Care Reform in March, Palin twittered to her followers,
"Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: 'Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!'" And “aim at Democrats” she said.Giffords was on Palin’s map. A moderate Democrat, who had been elected in Obama’s tidal wave of 2008 but who survived the Republican tsunami in November, Giffords had been vilified by some conservatives for her opposition to her state's aggressive crackdown on illegal immigrants and for her support for the health care overhaul. When her office in Tucson was vandalized after her vote for health care reform in March, Ms. Giffords said:
“We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list. But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there are consequences.”I also wonder about last June when Representative Gifford’s Republican opponent Jesse Kelly had an event at which voters could shoot an assault rifle with the candidate. The event was promoted with this ad:
“Get on Target for Victory in NovemberHelp remove Gabrielle Giffords from officeShoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly”
Little is known yet about just what motivated the killer. Direct lines of causality can rarely be drawn between a climate of hatred and a particular individual’s actions, but the observations of Representative Giffords last March and my friend on Friday have merit: hate language has consequences.
I am appalled, saddened, and angry. But I am also grateful for Representative Giffords. She has been in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “a drum major for justice” against the strong currents swirling around her, refusing to be intimidated by the hate that had her in its cross-hairs. She is a sign of hope.
Maybe I’ll get back to filibuster reform tomorrow.