Giffords is currently fighting for her life, while Judge Roll, 9-year-old Christina Green, Giffords' aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwan Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Schneck, 79, all lost their lives in the shooting. 14 other individuals were injured. Authorities believe that Loughner likely acted alone, and are pursuing the matter vigorously.
This tragedy is resonating deeply with people throughout the country. The House of Representatives has , including a vote regarding an overhaul of the healthcare bill passed in 2010. President Obama held a formal moment of silence in honor of Giffords and the other victimss today on the front lawn of the White House, calling for solidarity in this time of grief. Vigils for those affected have sprung up across the nation.
Giffords husband, NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, for their compassion, saying, “On behalf of Gabby and our entire family, I want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the people of Arizona and this great nation for their unbelievable outpouring of support. Gabby was doing what she loved most – hearing from her constituents – when this tragedy occurred. Serving Southern Arizonans is her passion, and nothing makes her more proud than representing them in Congress.”
Much of the response has been one of compassion, but a portion of it has been political in nature. Former vice presidential candidate has found herself on the defensive, with people correlating her “Take Back the 20” midterm campaign and the shooting. The campaign used gun and violence laden rhetoric, and its site placed gun crosshairs over the districts that Republicans were trying to “take back” during the election, one of which hovered over Giffords' district.
are attacking Palin and other Republicans for their violent rhetoric, saying that it possibly prompted the violent attacks. On the other side of the political spectrum, Republicans have shut down the “Take Back the 20” site, and for even mentioning politics at a time like this. The whole situation has become borderline explosive.
The public has expressed a great deal of disgust over the politicizing of this tragedy. Perhaps it shouldn't be the first reaction to blame the talk. However, this situation holds a lesson for Palin, as well as other Republicans and Democrats moving forward.
See, it's not a matter of blame. Even in a world where this shooter admits to everyone that Palin's campaign inspired him to start shooting (and he hasn't), it's still not about blame. No one- not Palin, not her staff, not Republicans, not Democrats who have used similar campaigning tactics- intends for other U.S. officials to be shot- or anyone else, for that matter. It just gets construed that way because they use inflammatory rhetoric.
The rhetoric is where the problem lies. When these figures join the world of politics, they take on an added level of responsibility. We hold them to a higher standard because not only are they the voice of America, but the directors of the public. Most people understand the concept of metaphor in political messages, but if there's a risk that someone out there will take you literally, resulting in a situation similar to the Giffords shooting or worse, then the metaphor carries more risk than it does benefit.
In other words, politicians need to practice responsible rhetoric. This isn't to avoid blame, but to avoid potential tragedy. If we expect our educators to choose their words carefully as they shape the lives of our young people, should our politicians not also be required to choose their words carefully in an effort to avoid lives being taken?
Violent rhetoric just sucks, no matter how you slice it. It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat, Republican or Santa Claus- it has no place in the public sphere. This is a conversation we've needed to have for a while now. It's just too bad that people had to die before it happened.
Giffords' husband, in the meantime, has the for most of us. As he puts it, “There is little that we can do but pray for those who are struggling.” We need to unite in prayer for these families, for our leaders and for the country as a whole. Perhaps, through the power of a nation's prayers, we can grow from tragedy.
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