This is how you destroy civilization.

A Federal Judge and a 9 year old girl shot dead along with at least three other people. A Congresswoman shot in the head, her life hanging on the brink. Six others gravely wounded. All this wrought by an avowed lone wolf right wing terrorist whose delusions sound suspiciously familiar. I have not been the only person who has argued that it was only a matter of time before some fool succeeded in committing  this sort of atrocity. Even a cursory examination of what Jared Lee Loughner has recently posted to the web makes it clear who he has been listening to that worked him up so; he has a little knowledge of the Constitution and Federalism, but he mixes it up with paranoia about the CIA and mind control. He is outraged that the currency is not backed by gold or silver and mentions God and is fixated on grammar and literacy. He hates immigrants. Most of what he writes is barely coherent and reads like the rantings of someone suffering from paranoid schizophrenia; however, the same could be said for Sarah Palin. Speaking of Sarah, apparently she scrubbed this image from her webpage but I found it at this article about how Jesse Kelly used eliminationist rhetoric in his campaign against Congresswoman Giffords.

While it may seem that this was the act of a lone nut, I wish to make it clear that this was the act of a “lone wolf” terrorist, a radical who has been inspired to commit a violent act in support of a political group or faction he is not affiliated with in any official way. This is exactly the kind of terrorism advocated by White Supremacists such as Alex Curtis and Tom Metzger for over a decade; far right blogs and forums are filled with encouragement for those who would do violence. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and their ilk have been using their national platforms to amplify the rhetoric of the far right wing and there are so many examples that I wouldn’t even know where to start to link. That Palin and Kelly have tried to scrub evidence of their drawing a crosshairs on Representative Giffords may not prove that they still possess a conscience but perhaps that they still have a rudimentary sense of shame. If that is the case, there may still be hope for them, but I doubt it.

I am having a difficult time keeping cool about this. That supermarket is 10 minutes away from some people that I consider part of my extended family; it is actually six years to the day since I was last in Tuscon at their home. The lies, distortions, and hyperbolic rhetoric of right wingers may not have made Jared Lee Loughner pull the trigger but they told him where to point his gun. The cowardice of modern fascists is without limit; the only difference between the assassination of Salman Taseer in Pakistan on Tuesday and today’s terrorism in Tuscon is that the Muslim terrorist didn’t kill a child.

This news should chill every American to their bloody marrow and be a fresh slap of wake the fuck up for all of us. Anyone who is cheering for this guy is an enemy of not only the United States of America but of civilization itself; that is not an emotional exaggeration but a considered response. The nation is very unsettled at the moment and there are more desperate people at the fringes than ever before who will cling to all sorts of madness to justify their misfortune and excuse their actions; it is a moment where demagogues are most dangerous. We must be vigilant.

Sarah Palin doesn't want you to see this anymore.

Sarah Palin doesn't want you to see this anymore.

23 Responses to “This is how you destroy civilization.”

  1. We must be vigilant. But we also must be careful. I do agree with your assessment of the current political climate. I also agree that Palin and Kelly should be ashamed of themselves for their rhetoric. But you are getting very close to accusing them of being accessory to murder. I’m not yet convinced that that is totally accurate. I am convinced though at this unbelievably heated moment, such comments are counter-productive. Lets pray for those who are injured, grieve with the families of the dead and support law enforcement as they try to resolve the facts of this case. Then, when emotions have calmed a bit, and all the facts are in, we can make some judgments and hopefully some changes. Right now, the LAST thing we need is more heated rhetoric.

    As I said to our mutual Arizona friend, Be careful, Be safe and I love you.

    • What’s sad is that the truly mad speaking forth violent, hateful words aren’t sticking out as different from the norm. If we as a society didn’t allow this malignant discourse from politicians, celebrities, or neighbors, then the someone like this might actually raise a red flag.

      Congresswoman Giffords is a true example of maintaining reason and thoughtfulness in her political position of power; she is considered a true moderate that fits the unique needs of the citizens of southern Arizona. She is considered a friend to both labor unions and to law enforcement, specifically Border Patrol. Her approach to solving issues is pragmatic and fair.

      Despite that, her opponent Jesse Kelly and his campaign hit southern AZ with fear and fury – removing rational debate and discourse and amping up the growing tension in the state. Giffords was trying to re-unify the growing divide & fear that he and others like him created by reaching out to her constituents, listening to *all* their concerns, and work together to solve problems.

      Our governor gets on tv, makes shit up to scare people and isn’t held accountable either. So yes, I do hold her, Jesse Kelly, Sarah Palin, and others like them partially responsible for this and future acts of violence of this kind.

  2. marymayweather Says:

    Latest reports have stated that authorities are seeking an accomplice that was on the scene, so the lone wolf scenario may not hold.

    The little girl who died was excited to meet her Congresswoman because she was just elected to her school’s student council.

    I am immeasurably sad.

  3. This entry was posted on Monday, October 13th, 2008:

    Many Giffords supporters will point to her travels to Iraq with Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, her battles on behalf of veterans or her seemingly endless community meetings over the controversial Interstate 19 checkpoint used by Homeland Security.

    But Giffords likely is best known for hanging out in grocery store parking lots. At frequent “Congress on Your Corner” events, she meets with long lines of her constituents – one by one, hour after hour.

    The accessible, candid Giffords is eager to discuss her actions directly with the people of Congressional District 8 – a vast area stretching from the Tanque Verde Valley where she grew up and south to Green Valley and Sierra Vista.

    The Tucson Citizen endorses Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords for re-election in Congressional District 8.

  4. My deepest condolences go out to the families of:
    Dorwin Stoddard
    Dorthy Murray
    Phyllis Scheck
    John Roll
    Gabe Zimmerman
    and there are no words adequate for the family of
    Christina Taylor Green

  5. Christina Greene The 9-year-old who was shot dead yesterday at the Giffords event was featured in a book “Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11.”

  6. Kenny-
    I meant exactly what I said as I said it; I am not trying to be coy or implying something through jokes, code words or ‘dog whistle’ language, unlike our charming right wing friends are so find of doing. Sarah Palin put a crosshairs on Representative Gabrielle Gifford’s face six months ago and now has taken it down; she didn’t tweet her condolences, she didn’t update her FB status condemning violence, but the graphic disappeared so we know there is some kind of awareness brewing there.

    To pretend this was just a lone maniac who wasn’t being encouraged to violence by right wing partisans is a dangerous conceit; this was an act of political terrorism carried out by an unstable individual who had been primed by the violent rhetoric of the right wing. Consider how much weight the right wing places upon the influence of gay schoolteachers and pop songs; they assert that people could become homosexual devil worshiping cannibals from even the briefest of exposures to these foul influences. Yet they refuse to be held accountable for their own words.

    This is an unimaginably sad loss. We are all the poorer for it.

  7. FWIW, Sarah Palin did express her condolences on her website. Here’s the text. I don’t want to support her in anyway by increasing her click count by sending you to the site.

    “On The Tragedy in Arizona”
    My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic shooting in Arizona.

    On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.

    – Sarah Palin

    Seems rather perfunctory to me.

    I do wonder my dearest friends about what you mean when you say “They should be held accountable..?” What do you propose we do? IMHO, all we can do is to be careful of our own language as we point out the dangers of the language of others. But as I said earlier, this is not a time to solve problems. This is a time to grieve, mourn and pray for comfort for all involved.

  8. Prayer for a Friendly World – Howard Thurman

    Our Father, fresh from the world, with the smell of life upon us, we make an act of prayer in the silence of this place. Our minds are troubled because the anxieties of our hearts are deep and searching. We are stifled by the odor of death which envelopes our earth, where in so many places brother fights against brother. The panic of fear, the torture of insecurity, the ache of hunger, all have fed and rekindled ancient hatreds and long-forgotten memories of old struggles, when the world was young and Thy children were but dimly aware of Thy Presence in the midst. For all this, we seek forgiveness. There is no one of us without guilt and, before Thee, we confess our sins: we are proud and arrogant; we are selfish and greedy; we have harbored in our hearts and minds much that makes for bitterness, hatred and revenge.

    While we wait in Thy Presence, search our spirits and grant to our minds the guidance and the wisdom that will teach us the way to take, without which there can be no peace and no confidence anywhere. Teach us how to put at the disposal of Thy Purposes of Peace the fruits of our industry, the products of our minds, the vast wealth of our land and the resources of our spirit. Grant unto us the courage to follow the illumination of this hour to the end that we shall not lead death to any man’s door; but rather may we strengthen the hands of all in high places, and in common tasks seek to build a friendly world, of friendly men & women, beneath a friendly sky. This is the simple desire of our hearts which we share with Thee in thanksgiving and confidence.

  9. One of the people killed was a pastor. The kind of guy that believed that serving his congregation didn’t just mean praying and preaching, but fixing houses, mending things, working on yards, whatever the need was… he died protecting his wife, his childhood sweetheart, who lived.
    One of the people killed was an older woman who was a lifelong Republican. She was a supported and went that day to talk to Congresswoman Giffords “because I just like that woman!”
    One of the survivors was a 20-year old intern who went towards the line of fire to save the woman he’d only been working for for 5 days. He is credited not only for his courage at the risk of his own life but for likely saving hers.
    These are the people and the stories I like to think about because it makes me feel better.

  10. By ‘being held accountable’ I mean that feckless idiots who put crosshairs over congressmen and talk about ‘reloading’ shouldn’t be treated like Serious and Important Political Figures; that her mouthpieces are trying to explain that the crosshairs had nothing to do with guns but were ‘surveyor’s lines’ only demonstrates that these people don’t even have the courage of their convictions.

    I appreciate the prayer and the sentiments. I agree that we need to remain rational; the shooter was clearly a disturbed individual without any coherent political agenda or affiliation. However, it is obvious to me that he was not operating in a vacuum. This lone nut had a lot of people whispering in his ear.

  11. Thanks Lily. Makes me feel a bit better that there are good people out there. It also makes this tragedy all the more awful.

    There are too many people who are trying to use this tragedy in a political argument. This is especially dangerous and unhelpful when we don’t yet have all the facts. I do hope this incident will make people think twice about their rhetoric. The Chicago Tribune has an interesting take on this question here:

    This morning I saw a report on NBC that showed that this guy’s behaviour followed an all too familiar pattern. His increasingly erratic behaviour alarmed many, led to his being expelled from Community College and caused the US Army to refuse his enlistment. Subsequently, he was able to purchase a handgun from a sporting goods store. The rest, well…

    These facts beg many questions; Other frequent visitors to this site are more able to discuss the state of mental health care in Arizona than I, but this guy obviously needed help and had gone for many YEARS without getting it. Another thing that I find odd, the US ARMY wouldn’t give this guy a gun, but he’s able to walk into a sporting goods store and buy a Glock 17 and an extended clip or two almost as easily as he would’ve a tennis racket. I am not politically naive enough to think that we will ever abolish gun ownership. But how on earth this guy legally bought a handgun is beyond me.

  12. Arizona is just about the most gun-friendly state in the union; if they pass a proposed law to allow people to carry concealed weapons at schools and colleges they will be at a 0 out of 100 on the Brady Campaign scorecard. I guess concealed carry didn’t save any lives on Saturday.

    I’m sorry, Kenny, but I can’t take the Trib’s milquetoast rewriting of history; this is not one of those deals where ‘everybody is equally at fault’ or some nonsense like that. Sarah Palin is not arguing that it is political free speech to put gun crosshairs on a map; she is saying that those were not gun crosshairs at all. It seems that she is acknowledging that it was the wrong thing to do while trying to pretend that she didn’t do it. It is absurd to pretend that this is not a political issue; last summer people were showing up at town hall meetings armed and carrying signs that said things like ‘ It is time to water the tree of liberty’ and other such threatening nonsense. Right wing pundits did not pull the trigger but they have been telling the maniacs who to aim at. Think of it this way; if a black man in an Obama shirt had shot a Republican congressman we would be having a very different conversation today.

  13. Hey cats,

    Took some time to think about this one before offering up a response. Here’s what I got:

    1. The shooter is clearly mentally disurbed and didn’t ever actually get any help, either because it wasn’t available or because he din’t want it/thought he didn’t need it. Thus far there’s no indication that this has anything whatsoever to do with the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, or any sort of organizd ideology. He is a nut. (There has been some talk of loose ties to a white supremacist group, but this is not confirmed anywhere.)

    2.) Sarah Palin is not to blame, nor is Glenn Beck or any of the other idealogues. The shooter himself is to blame. That being said, Palin’s behavior has been really, really strange since the massacre. I do not blame hardline conservatives, or even their apocalyptic rhetoric, for this; however, if everyone’s first impulse was to think that rhetoric caused this shooting, it might be an opportunity to consider why people immediately jumped to that conclusion. There’s an old saying about playing with fire that seems appropriate here.

    3.) This does, at least, speak to the need for at least some regulation of gun ownership–at the very least, of magazines of the type this man used. It seems to me that if one needs a 33-round magazine for personal defense, one ought to move. That the paperwork that would’ve prevented this man from buying a gun was held up due to a delay in processing is a colossal blunder that someone, somewhere, will have to live with for a very long time. (And Winston: one of the men who subdued the shooter had a concealed weapon on him and chose not to use it, for fear of hitting someone in the crowd.)

    4.) I don’t often advocate the death penalty, but that sum’bitch is goin’ down. Why anyone would willingly target a nine-year-old girl is completely beyond me.

  14. Winston, I didn’t agree with the Trib’ editorial completely either. I just offered it as another opinion. It is a bit too mild for me as well.

    Apparently, there was at least one person on the scene with a concealed firearm. What I heard was that he/she chose not to use it b/c of the risk of hitting innocents. (don’t remember where i read this.)

    I do agree that Palin’s rhetoric is (for lack of a better word) problematic. Today, she moved into territory that even her worst critics probably didn’t believe she was capable of. She actually used the phrase ‘blood libel’ to describe the criticism she has received.
    I think we may be witnessing the end of Palin as a viable candidate. She will still be a factor and a darling of the extreme far right, but I think she is headed toward Michael Moore territory. (Meaning that her only audience will be people who agree with her, anyone in the middle won’t really take her seriously anymore.) we can only hope.

  15. Prof,

    Thanks for your measured and carefully considered opinion. I was looking forward to reading it. I’m with you on everything but No. 4.

  16. Kenny,

    I generally oppose the death penalty, in case authorities, you know, get it wrong. I can think of many apt punishments for this individual, all of them cruel and a few unusual. Which is why I do not make these decision.

  17. I had tears streaming down my face from the moment that President Obama walked up to the podium tonight. Although watching with my son from home, I cannot tell you why, but I feel comforted that the President is here in the state.

    The beautiful and dignified response from the Tucson community:

  18. […] sets us straight. I ♥ my commenters. They keep me honest with their awesome smartness. The booking photo of Jared Loughner staring up […]

  19. angelagenie Says:

    I was saddened and horrified when I heard about the shootings, and, the same day, I also heard that due to the war in Iraq, committed by America and its allies, there five million orphans.

    Who is the real terrorist?
    Shoot a few people you get put in jail (and justly so) shoot millions and they make you president/king/pharaoh/etc…

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