Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic Congresswoman from Arizona, was shot in the back of the head by a 22 year old man named Lee Loughner. Six other people were also shot dead and eighteen others were injured. Representative Giffords is in critical condition, lying in a Tucson hospital.
Former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin published a controversial map on the social network site, Facebook, which depicted Gabrielle Giffords’ Congressional District beneath a graphic of cross hairs of a gun scope.
Palin also targeted 20 other Democrats who voted for President Obama’s Health Care Reform bill. Gibrielle Giffords was number four on Palin’s crosshairs list. Sarah Palin is not the only politician to use gun rhetoric and is now being accused of using violent language to win votes. Another political opponent of Griffords was Jesse Kelly, who told voters to “Get on Target for victory in Novemeber/help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office/shoot a fully automatic M15 with Jesse Kelly.”
The source for this quote ‘Sarah Palin Criticized Over Gabrielle Giffords Presence on “Target List”’ January 8, 2011 Posted by Brian Montopoli, Robert Hendin
Palin’s words could be construed as violent and incendiary. Action words revolving around the use of weapons include the words “salvo and “fight” and the phrase “Don’t retreat, RELOAD!”
Michael Shaw posted on the “Bag News Notes” site that that Representative Giffords was certainly distraught when, in March of 2010, she gave an interview with MSNBC after right wing extremists had vandalized her office following the health care vote. Shaw refers to how, in an eerily predictive moment on camera, Representative Giffords uses her fingers to demonstrate how Palin targeted her district with the crosshairs symbol. 20 Other districts where Democratic Party politicians were running for re-election were targeted on the map with the crosshairs graphic as well. Giffords specifically cites Sarah Palin’s Facebook map in the interview.
‘Reading the Pictures: Giffords Shooting Almost Predictable: She Diagrammed it Herself on MSNBC’ by Michael Shaw, January 9, 2011 ‘BagNewsNotes.’
Giffords is one of the few members of Congress who is Jewish. She is known for being a moderate and not a liberal. She did vote against the hateful anti-immigrant law SB 1070, which allows police to target people based on racial profiling. Arizona has developed into a sort of “New Confederacy” state where hate rhetoric and bigoty are common elements of society. The media and Hate radio play a role. This reflects a climate in the United States generally that has intensified a poisonous and hostile polarization in regards to immigration. And it is getting increasingly angry. Arizona has recently banned the teaching of Mexican ethnic studies, singling out one ethnic group. Mexican cultural studies are banned from being taught in schools. Black or American Indian ethnic studies are not banned. In Arizona the permissive gun laws allow people who have a permit for a gun to carry a loaded and concealed pistol, even into a bar, in sort of a modern version of the wild west. It would seem to be common sense that alcohol would be an influencing factor with regards to danger and carrying a loaded fire arm in public. A newly proposd law has been introduced that would be considered down right wacky in most places in which the idea being kicked around is that concealed weapons may be carried by sudents on college campuses and dorms. In such an atmosphere both Giffords and State Federal Judge John Roll (who was also a victim in the mass killing) had received threats from right wingers.
For detailed reporting of these events please listen to the Dennis Bernstein and Flashpoints, for January 10, 2011 audioachieve by clicking on this link:
The shooter Jared Loughner signed a statement on an envelope and put it in a safe, proclaiming that he was going to shoot Representative Giffords. He is being indicted for several counts of murder. It is alleged that he also shot indscriminately into the crowd at the Safeway shopping center.
Vitriolic speech in the mass media has consequences, as does inciting violence. Sarah Palin had time - she could have responded to the concerns voiced regarding her gun sight map or aggressive weapons rhetoric. The targets of her words complained at the time and said they felt threatened. Palin could have stopped using these tactics against political opponents.
We live in a country in which the electronic and print media are allowing right wing ideologues to bully the rest. This vicious atmosphere in the United States is mirrored in the strategy Sarah Palin and Jesse Kelly have used to get ahead for themselves. The word “extremist” is often bandied about. But mainstream politicians are not being labeled as “extremists” by the major news media. The US war of aggression, mass murder and systematic torture in Iraq and Afghanistan are not seen as extreme to the “kept” press. These events are happening while the system in the United States is enacting more repressive laws, like the Patriot Act, and establishing institutions such as Homeland Security. Right now US authorities are conducting anti-immigrant raids, and there are growing numbers of murders of people by enforcers on the border. Now that the economic system is in crisis in a way we haven’t seen for more than half a century, the tea party reactionaries can be “reserves” for preserving the social relations and the status quo for the rulers. These reactionaries are an expression of the insecurity driving people to madness. Hostility and division are on the rise. The Tea Party has been told by their leaders not to direct hatred towards the rulers of this country, but towards regular people they see as “below” them, (Mexican immigrants, Blacks, or Muslims, etc.). Bigotry is not un-American, the history of the United States includes a lot of racism -to the extreme. This is why some politicians and media figures are inflaming the crisis with right wing hate rhetoric. There are different types of violence and militancy. Libratory struggle is different from the repressive violence of the US military oppressors in Asia or anti-immigrant police and tea party vigilantes. Last week’s shooting seems to be a sort of irrational lashing out. We should ask ourselves, “What kind of country are we living in?” We should not kid ourselves. The USA is a violent society. It has a long history of assassinations and other bloody deeds. Right now the world is suffering from the longest war in US history and the President has given himself the authority to assassinate US citizens anywhere in the world.
The tragedy in Arizona is a reflection of these world events.