January 10, 2011
To see an elected representative who is זרע ישראל shot is a horrible experience. One can only hope that Gabrielle Giffords will survive and live to speak.
After responding emotionally to this event, the most reasonable step - when searching for a cause or explanation - is to discuss mental health in the United States. All the anecdotes and evidence available indicate that the murderer was mentally unstable. (I'm afraid that without a formal diagnosis, "mentally unstable" is the only terminology appropriate, though it is a rather broad assessment.) In all likelihood, he was not being treated. The fellow was living in his parents' house, and one can point to them for not being aware of his condition. Nevertheless, he was a 22 year-old man, not a boy. The parents, however, live in a world where mental health - and mental health treatment - are still too taboo.
To suggest a relationship between the ramblings and actions of one who is mentally unstable and the larger political-societal environment is fraught with difficulty because of the ill-person's distortion. Unfortunately, the public discourse has already side-stepped the most reasonable matter to discuss - the state of mental health services in America - and entered into a hazier, less responsible area, which is how political rhetoric played a role in the action.
At some level, this response is a clear evasion of the matter at hand, and its avoidance is second in tragedy only to the very event at hand. Matt Bai reports that Sarah Palin had a cross-hairs target over then-candidate Giffords' district and that following the assassination attempt, she promptly removed it and offered a statement, which David Frum has described as defensive and not compassionate. It may have been the most significant mistake Palin has made in the public eye since she campaigned for vice-president in 2008.
Nevertheless, friends have pointed out to me that the Democrats employed bulls-eye targets on states in the 2004 election where they wanted to oust a Republican who they viewed as particularly offensive. I do think there is a פילפול discussion to get involved in here wherein one contrasts a bulls-eye with a cross-hairs, but I won't enter into it here.
To conclude, I am completely committed to condemning the employment of weapons-related rhetoric in public discourse. In this respect, the politician who has spoken most successfully on my behalf and upon the behalf of countless other peace-loving citizens of the United States is Democratic Representative from New York Carolyn McCarthy. “I put a lot of blame on…the rhetoric...You had some pretty high up political people saying, ‘Get your guns out –we’re going to take our country back’ —you have to be careful," she said.
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I think your post misses the mark. Whether or not political rhetoric is overheated what did this have to do with the shooting? There seems to be no evidence it was yet conservatives are being blamed for it.
Clausewitz said war is politics by other means. The similarity between the two activites is real. It is foolish to pretend not to notice and never use the language of war in politics. It has always been there and always will.
Demonizing your opponents is another issue entirely. Calling your opponent a murderer, fascist, nazi, communist etc. is an issue for me. Albiet one that has nothing to do with the Tuscon shootings.
steve | January 11, 2011 07:42 PM