Mass Murder in Tucson Strikes Close to Home

Everyone with public influence knows to be extra careful with what they say and how they say it. They know to be mindful that some members of the public are armed and crazy or are suggestible, even delusional, and could react to statements like Palin’s by carrying out her wishes — whether spoken or suggested.

You can imagine my surprise when checking the news Saturday and seeing that mass murder had been committed in front of a place where I get my hair cut. Next to the Safeway at Ina and Oracle in Tucson is a Great Clips — been there three times, last time about a year ago. I can describe the interior of the Safeway from memory.

It’s now a graveyard.

A friend’s mother drove past that Safeway just before the shooting. She was going to drop in to buy something, but decided at the last moment to go home instead. She’s curious about politics, and might have been among the crowd when the shooting started.

To come so close to tragedy is a disconcerting feeling.

Having watched this story with particular interest, I have something to say about the debate that’s ensued regarding poisonous political rhetoric. Various pundits are trying to poo-poo this tragedy and deny that it’s connected to calls for actions against politicians like Gabby Giffords. Technically, they might be right: The shooter was obviously a disturbed young man who might have never seen Sarah Palin’s Hit List, and hey, crosshairs are a common symbol, sometimes used in politics. Did Palin actually say she wanted someone to go kill Gabby and five other people?

She didn’t have to.

Palin left those crosshairs on her Facebook page until the moment people started dying. That tells us everything we need to know about her intent. Her “condolences” to the families of the people killed and injured sounded to me like a Twitter message. To Sarah, collateral damage is just another bump in the road to the White House.

(Can we now officially rule her out as a viable presidential candidate? Good leaders don’t make irresponsible statements then try to hide from them. With Alaska’s former half-term governor, the buck stops somewhere far away.)

Palin’s Hit List was irresponsible, to say the least. But it’s disingenuous to ask for a direct cause and effect between violent rhetoric like hers and violent actions that ensue. Responsible leaders with public influence know to be extra careful with what they say and how they say it. They know to be mindful that some members of the public are armed and crazy, or are suggestible, even delusional, and could react to statements like Palin’s by carrying out her wishes — whether spoken or suggested. All it takes is a young man with an Oedipal fixation on her for a tragedy to happen like the Safeway shootings in Tucson.

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Pretending otherwise is just pure ignorance to human nature, and a poor excuse after the fact. To the many bloggers and pundits decrying the usage of this opportunity to talk about the connection between violent language and violent actions, I say grow the fuck up. Six people are dead, including a judge and a schoolgirl born on 9-11-2001, and some people have the nerve to complain when fingers start pointing? When the public demands answers and the easiest to find are on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page and tea party Republican websites?

When an anti-abortion fanatic killed Dr. George Tiller in a church, right-wing pundits played the same game of covering over the fact that Tiller had been on Bill O’Reilly’s Hit List, mentioned on 29 episodes, often as “Tiller the Baby Killer.”

It’s not enough for an O’Reilly or a Palin to explain after the fact that they didn’t actually want someone killed. The coy game of inciting the public then dodging the consequences ends with mass murder. No more excuses.

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