james debate
james debate

Sunday 9 January 2011

I was going to post my first entry in the hotly tipped for 2011 series today, but I feel in light of yesterday's horrific events it is appropriate for me to delay that and instead take a moment to express my disgust and contempt for what has happened.

gabrielle giffords

I hope I speak for every American when I say that our thoughts are with the victims of this sickening crime and their families. But I feel that this is also a moment of deepest tragedy and shame for the entire country. Our way of life and Government is based around the ability for the people to openly and comfortably engage in the process of running the country, to connect with their elected officials and become involved in this fashion. This callous and indiscriminate (a 9 year old girl is among the dead) attack at a political event is an indelible stain on the ideals we purport to uphold and the principles of Democracy and liberty that we stand for, and one which it seems was sadly inevitable given the current state of our political discourse.

It is not yet known what was going through the mind of the gunman, but what is clear is that there is no possible motivation, no possible explanation for what has happened. By all accounts Gabrielle Giffords was among the most positive and charming individuals you could ever meet, a shining up and comer in the political world and popular despite serving a state that typically doesn't look too kindly toward Democrats. If as many now seem to believe this crime was politically motivated, a crime of hatred and anger, then it was not Gabby he was shooting but a caricature of her, a demonised figure as painted by unscrupulous political opponents.

Unfortunately this is all too typical of politics in America right now, but what is most worrying is how explicit these incitements have been. Republican favorite Sharon Angle recently called on the Tea Party to "use 2nd amendment (right to own guns) remedies" should they fail to get what they want at the ballots. Sarah Palin followed this up by sending conservatives a map with gun crosshairs aimed at specific Democratic politicians, urging her supporters to "reload" and use whatever means necessary to remove them from power. Possibly the most distressing of these deplorable acts came from Giffords' general election opponent Jesse Kelly who advertised campaign events to "Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly."

Anyone with a shred of common sense can see that when you combine this quasi-violent hate speech with the cartoonish demonisation of public figures that has become commonplace something like this was bound to happen eventually.

So it came as no surprise when a gun turned up at one of Giffords' health care reform town hall meetings as a warning, and then after she voted to pass the Patient Protection Act her office was ransacked and smashed to pieces. Two days ago she voted against repealing the same legislation, and the very next day she was shot by a man whose youtube and myspace pages were awash with libertarian and devoutly anti-government propaganda.

At this stage it can't be ruled out that this is all a coincidence, but the sheer volume and regularity of violent acts perpetrated by extremists paints a very clear picture. Whether it's vandalism, knife attacks, or possible attempted murder, the last two years have been disgracefully chock full of politically motivated violence, largely in the wake of inflammatory rhetoric, and almost completely ignored.

Well I think it's clear that we can no longer ignore what's going on in our country. How many more people need to get hurt or die before we take this seriously and adopt a stronger stance against the dangerous and frankly irresponsible hate mongering that is all too prevalent? America is better than this, this tragedy needs to be the wake up call.

I hope everyone will join me in wishing a successful recovery for Gabby and the other victims and that this is the last we see of such violence.

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