Horrible news today of a shooting rampage in Tuscon, AZ in which a troubled 20 year-old with vague political motives shot and killed six, including chief federal judge, John Roll and severely wounded Cong. Gabrielle Giffords, a centrist Democrat, who was shot in the brain. Her doctors say she will survive, but they have no idea what level of brain damage there might be.
From news reports quoting the rabbi who married her, it appears Giffords is Jewish. It’s not yet known whether there were anti-Semitic motives to the attack. Though the fact that he killed seemingly at random might preclue that theory.
Ironically, in order to be elected in Republican-leaning district, she had to embrace gun rights. But she voted in favor of the health care bill and opposed Arizona’s draconian laws criminalizing being an immigrant there. At an earlier similar constituent meeting police arrested a man who was armed with a pistol. Giffords had received death threats, as had the federal judge.
During the recent Congressional campaign, Sarah Palin’s website featured Congressional districts represented by Democrats along with a bulls-eye targeting them. The bulls-eyes, for some reason, were later removed. In fact, the Congresswoman had this to say about being targeted:
…Giffords said last week in an interview: “We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is that the way she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action.”
The killer, Jason Loughner, is 20 years old. Somehow he appears to have procured a semiautomatic weapon for his killing spree. His political views are rambling, incoherent, profoundly alienated and violent, though a friend who hadn’t seen him in seven years tweeted that when she knew him his views were quite left-wing. They must’ve changed in the interim, as he lists Mein Kampf as one of his favorite books (along with the Communist Manifesto, go figure).
Many Democrats are blaming Tea Party rhetoric for the violent tone of political discourse in the country. But the killer’s motivations appear confused. It should be said though that many of his general views echo those of the Tea Party.
Arizona also seems to be a place that encourages the sort of hatred that must’ve fueled this carnage. Today’s NY Times carries a story about the Repubican attorney general who railroaded a measure through the legislature that essentially criminalizes Chicano ethnic studies programs, which it defines thus:
The Arizona law warns school districts that they stand to lose 10 percent of their state education funds if their ethnic-studies programs are found not to comply with new state standards. Programs that promote the overthrow of the United States government are explicitly banned, and that includes the suggestion that portions of the Southwest that were once part of Mexico should be returned to that country.
Also prohibited is any promotion of resentment toward a race. Programs that are primarily for one race or that advocate ethnic solidarity instead of individuality are also outlawed.
On Monday, his final day as the state’s top education official, Mr. Horne declared that Tucson’s Mexican-American program violated all four provisions. The law gives the district 60 days to comply, although Mr. Horne offered only one remedy: the dissolution of the program.
Here’s more vintage Tom Horne (the attorney general):
“It’s propagandizing and brainwashing that’s going on there [in the Chicano Studies program]…Once they get told day after day that they are being victimized, they become angry and resentful….
“They are the ‘Bull Connors.’ They are the ones resegregating.”
If punishing ethnic identity is the prevailing norm in Arizona politics is it any wonder that some lunatic might get it into his head that those who support immigrants or identity with their cause might be so damaging to the republic that they should be eliminated? No, Tom Horne didn’t kill John Roll nor did he put a bullet in Congresswomen Giffords brain. But words matter and laws do too. If you attempt to score political points on the backs of ethnic minorities and do so largely because they have the least power in society to stand up to your bullying, then you’ve created the environment that produces the Jason Loughners of the world. And yes, that means Sarah Palin and the Tea Party too. They’re less culpable, but a contributing factor nonetheless.
The county sheriff commented on the type of rhetoric that may’ve motivated Loughner to act:
The Sheriff of Pima County, Clarence Dupnick, today said this: “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is outrageous.”
By the way, Horne didn’t outlaw ethnic studies programs for African-Americans, Asians or Native Americans. Those are apparently kosher; or else he’s worried he would bruise far more entrenched interests if he took them on.
I hate to be morbid but the only way the U.S. may get real national gun control is having a few other nutheads take potshots at other Congressmembers. There’s nothing like self-preservation to change a person’s political views radically. Or perhaps we should ask the NRA to provide protection for all members of Congress and the federal judiciary?
Again, I hate to be morbid but would anyone like to make a wager on whether the Arizona Republican Party and its Tea Party supporters are relishing the possibility they may get an opportunity to replace Giffords, should she not be able to resume her seat, with one of their kind?