Giffords also was among about 20 Democrats opposed in last fall’s elections by Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee. Palin’s Facebook page in March posted a U.S. map with the cross-hairs of a gun scope imposed over each of the 20 Democrats’ districts. Gun imagery appeared in various ways in the campaign, often not connected at all withgun rights.
“We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list,” Giffords said at the time. “The way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there are consequences to that action.”
Palin’s Facebook page had the following comment in the hours after the shooting:
“My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic shooting in Arizona.”
Ferocious comments, and even occasional violence, certainly animate American politics from time to time;witness the bloody drive for racial equality and desegregation, and the antiwar protests, of the 20th century.
How about “witness the bloody reprisals against those fighting for racial equality and desegregation, and the wars of choice, of the 20th century?” How about phrasing it that way? Instead of making it out that yes, ten hippies got the fuck out of hand and so it’s a sort of general “political rhetoric” that’s violent, and not one goddamn party in service of its vicious goals?
You want to talk about violent political rhetoric? As if it’s new? As if it’s recent? How about the violent rhetoric that says that people deserve to die because they’re poor, because their parents are undocumented, because they’re black, because they should have moved out of the ‘hood, because they were walking where they shouldn’t have been? How about the violent rhetoric that says that children should be doomed to schools that are like demilitarized zones because their parents have committed the crime of not being wealthy? That kind of thing isn’t new.
How about the violent rhetoric that told terrorists to bring it on, that said a war in another country would be a cakewalk, that said of looting and violence that it was merely “untidy,” that asks whether Arabs and Muslims deserve freedom, that wonders at the lack of gratitude families show for bombs dropped on their wedding parties? We’ve been hearing that for a while.
How about the violent rhetoric that asks if the devastating earthquake that destroyed half of Haiti would have been less devastating if those poor Haitians would just “internalize responsibility?” How about the violent rhetoric that declared that American cities could drown for all we cared, because those people had big-screen TVs and were stupid for living there anyway? That’s going on six years now, we’ve been hearing that kind of thing.
Before we talk about people at anti-war protests with very rude signs, maybe we could get through the last 40 years in which one party’s violent rhetoric and even more violent actions have created the society in which we now live. A society dominated by economic nihilism, threaded through with suspicion and fear, all of it wrapped in a very nice red, white and blue goddamn bow, shoved in a gun barrel and shot into the sky.
We’ve been tolerating political rhetoric that is unspeakably violent since long before Sarah Palin started spewing her nonsense on Facebook. If she never spoke again, if she never said another word, we would still have a society in which it is totally okay to call some people expendable because they’re unprivileged, evil because they’re idealistic, and irredeemable because they have the gall to say that the way things are isn’t the way things have to be.
Sarah Palin and her Facebook page are just a little cruder about expressing it, is all. And nobody really minded all that much until some lunatic started shooting.