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Posts Tagged ‘Gabrielle Giffords’

A new Yahoo story today shows that gun sales have spiked after last week’s shooting massacre in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater.

I’m sure I don’t have to state the obvious … well, yes I do. Lots of gun nuts out have over the past couple of years scrounged up the counterintuitive argument that massacres like these could be prevented if more people were armed. That means, if tons of guns were dropped in a crime-ridden inner-city area like Detroit, crime rates would drop. It would mean that if guns were airlifted to a war zone like Syria and dropped down to both sides, violence would stop.

We’ve already been through this obscenely stupid argument before. When Gabrielle Giffords was shot, along with several others, in a Tucson, Ariz. parking lot early last year, one of the people to rush to the scene was the armed Joe Zamudio. He came with his gun drawn to the scene with the safety off and caught sight of a man with another gun. This was not the shooter. But Zamudio didn’t figure that out immediately and pushed the man up against the wall. Luckily he had the presence of mind not to shoot, but things could have spun out of control. He also knew, according to Slate, that if he pulled his gun out he might be confused as the shooter.

Common sense tells us that when everybody is armed, situations easily defused could turn into life and death emergencies. People who feel threatened are oftentimes mistaken, or even if they aren’t, they aren’t likely to judge whether they are really in mortal danger. Guns give people a false sense of power, when the power they won’t really ever have–unless they are criminals–is that of surprise. And that is always left to a hostile person with a weapon. For this person, the right wing is willing to fight tooth and nail, because a schizophrenic’s access to firepower as a key assumption of their own liberty, a supposed bedrock of their own Rousseauian natural rights.

This is one of those diminishing return arguments–it goes nowhere, but gun fanatics will argue it because they know you are too afraid to fight it to its dead end–nonsense.

The more untenable their arguments, and the more grisly statistics about gun deaths give them the lie, gun rights advocates grow more ruddy faced and extreme about their conviction and engage in the most childish forms of projection: It’s not guns that are bad. It’s got to be anything else. Everything else.

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The Republican-controlled House of Representatives, having postponed legislation for a few days to observe a more civil tone after a weekend of violence, has returned to work in a spirit of compromise and unity with the Democrats across the aisle, introducing a new piece of legislation showing the shared convictions of a nation coping with loss.

It is known by its unifying title, the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.”

“Hey, wait a minute …” said Democrats. “That’s not very nice.”

A largely symbolic piece of legislation, since the Democrats still control the Senate, Republicans tweaked it a bit so it read instead, “Shooting Down the Health Care Act Act.” In lieu of that, they suggested the “Cutting Life Support on the Health Care Act Act,” and “Killing Health Care Reform In A Bathtub,” and the “Returning to a Belligerent Posture Following A Weekend of Mock Civility Act.”

“After the tragic events of last weekend, we have hopefully returned to a new era of friendship, noblesse oblige and tact,” said majority leader Eric Cantor as he introduced the “Terminating the Health Care Bill With Extreme Prejudice Act.”

Were those bills to stall, Republicans say they would introduce the “Euthanizing the Health Care Reform Act With An Overdose of Morphine and Digitalis,” and the  “Guns Don’t Kill People, The Health Care Reform Act Kills People Act.” Like the others, these bills aim to remove last year’s main Democrat achievement, a law aimed of insuring 95% of all Americans by offering subsidies to small businesses and increasing the age at which children can no longer remain on their parents’ insurance plants. If that bill fails, Republicans say, they will continue to pursue a spirit of concordance and compromise by floating a bill, again largely symbolic, called the  “I Fuck Your Health Care Bill in the Eye Socket Reconciliation Act,” and if not that, they’ll try the “You Talking To Me? Health Care Reform Assassination Act.”

Other titles for future legislation, should these not pass, are the “Beheading the Democrats’ Stupid Health Care Legislation,” the “Snuffing Out the Health Care Reform with a Pillow Act,” the “Throwing Lit Matches At Democratic Faces Act,” the “Sowing Discord For Cheap Political Points Act” and “The Patriot Act.”

Again, all mostly time-wasting, symbolic titles that won’t go to Senate and really don’t do anything other than promote the new spirit of harmony.

“Americans after this weekend are showing a new unity,” said John Boehner as he introduced the “Screw Unity and Screw U Act.” We cannot let a few deranged individuals upset our Democracy and spread dissension, and that’s why we support this new bill, subtitled ‘The Democratic Criminals Are Assaulting Your Liberties Act.'”

After those bills die predictable deaths, having served absolutely no purpose at all, Republicans say they may simply call it the “Supporting Gabrielle Giffords By Repealing Legislation that Gabrielle Giffords Supported Act.”

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The attempted murder of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the death of six bystanders in yesterday’s mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona have sparked a debate about how toxic our national discourse has become. That discourse barely had time to neutralize before it turned toxic again a few hours later. Before suspect Jared Lee Loughner was even named as the suspect, left wingers took aim at the Tea Party and Sarah Palin for the gun imagery she has brought to bear (and bears) in our national debates, and her targeting of Giffords in particular. This, they say, wasn’t an isolated incident by a crazy person but the spawn of a right-wing firmament that breeds crazy in crazy nurseries.

A couple of years ago, for instance, Fox pundit Bill O’Reilly repeatedly called Kansas abortion provider George Tiller a baby killer and mentioned him some 28 times on his show. Tiller was later murdered by Scott Roeder, shot in the eye while he was inside his church. The right has since Barack Obama’s election become more ominous in its rhetoric, more martial in its imagery and apocalyptic in its pronouncements. A disempowered group of Americans in 2008 turned to millenarian fury (a sign of their fear). Thus Giffords and others had gotten threats for their support of the health care bill. People were showing up at protests during those debates brandishing guns.

And so there was an anticipation building up among liberals that something like this was bound to happen sooner or later, perhaps even a dark wish that it happen to reveal the true animal spirits on the right.

So once there was news of a shooting, it seemed like a good time to immediately assail Palin’s bulls eye imagery, and the crosshairs she trained on Arizona’s Eight District in a 2010 political poster, which Giffords herself called an implied threat. Or for that matter it was worth remembering that Ann Coulter once called Bill Clinton assassination worthy. Or that Glenn Beck has joked about killing opponents and that his whole ideology is based around conspiracy theories that appeal to our country’s many lunatics.

At some point, rhetoric does indeed turn into threat, as I think it did in O’Reilly’s case. The First Amendment doesn’t cover threats. You can’t draw a line through a person’s name and smear it in blood on a poster. But it’s not like the right doesn’t know this. Instead its more clever exponents play with the contradictions. Palin and Glenn Beck do it with an edge of satire that their audience is likely aware of on some level, as obnoxious and destructive as it is to progress, as anathema as it is to people with brains. Yes it’s sad that some dummies do take it seriously (not realizing that Palin is less about policy than media whoredom or not recognizing that Beck is little more than a snake oil salesman/pitch man for gold investments). But the left uses imagery just as often, and with the arrogant vouchsafe that it’s OK for us because we’re right after all. A lot of us called George Bush a war criminal because we thought he had left at least a hundred thousand people dead in Iraq by lying about the reasons for going to war. Are there ramifications of using that language? Could it be used by a crazy person who thinks George Bush is literally a wanted criminal and who might in a deranged state somehow take action on that notion?

This is one reason I can’t blame Palin and Beck for Giffords. And that has made me a very lonely lefty this week.

Call it First Amendment fundamentalism or just sadness about how quickly the situation was exploited. Nobody on the left had the sense to wait a few hours to see who opened fire at that Safeway, and when it turned out to be a moonstruck college dropout/armed forces reject with paranoias about mind control, libs had to spin like mad when they realized they had literally jumped the gun. All of my heroes are now doing the mushy blogs about how toxic our political climate has become and trying with limp avail and flimsy proof to lay it at the feet of Palin.

Yes, Loughner used some right wing symbols about the Constitution being under attack and about the integrity of gold-backed currency. But he was mainly weaving that into a dark, solipsistic ideology all his own, barely recognizable to even NRA members. Who in the hell on the right wing has ever argued about government control of your “grammar structure”?

My heroes Keith Olbermann and Paul Krugman have taken this story with the dutiful drudgery of football players taking their positions at shirts and skins scrimmage. Krugman did not offer his usual elegant hard numbers to back up his weak contention that this was an invariable outcome of right wing hate-mongering–but just swiped at Palin in a pro forma rant,  trying to convince us she’s more to blame than people who used to call George Bush Hitler. Before 5 p.m. yesterday, conservatives already had been roused to defensive anger and were in pretty good stead to bat away the arguments that Jared Loughner’s  insanity in any way resembled their own behavior. The anti-bodies had kicked in, and there would be no reason, if I were a right-winger, to listen to the criticism. The left made a prima facie judgment and showed the right it will blame Sarah Palin for anything, even small pox, car wrecks or dog mange.

That makes her stronger, folks.

I’m a leftist, and do believe the Tea Party has created a toxic environment of anti-government panic and often destroyed sensible discourse with meaningless sloganeering. My late mother once told me that in her job as a tax preparer, she came across people who wanted to cash out of all their stock holdings at unattractive bases, take big tax hits or do other forms of financial violence to themselves just because Fox News has told them America had gone socialist. My mother’s prescription: “Fox News should be banned.” And this was a woman who had voted for Bush.

Just another example that conservative thinking is going to do real harm to many disadvantaged people (a lot of them conservatives) in the long run. They will slash necessary programs, push an anti-government agenda that forces more out-of-pocket expenses on poor people, destroy the middle class, accelerate wealth disparity, put us more in debt to the Chinese and force depressions on us if they have to. But it’s hard to prove or see that kind of insidious violence, and that makes lefties want to pin something more tangible on right wing leaders. How about a murder?

The fact is that there are lots of ways to slice the orange on this story. The most horrible is the one none of us dare bring up: We could point to the tragic irony that Giffords is a gun rights advocate and maybe ask if this is a good time to bring up the issue again in our national discourse. We could have taken aim (note the harmless metaphor) at Sarah Palin’s gun stances rather than Palin herself. Instead, we played into her hands and won her more sympathy.

Or we could have noted the irony that Giffords has not been easy to pigeonhole and she’s a good example of our less doctrinaire politicians. The sad thing is that maybe we need more of her, not one less. Our all-too-necessary political center is being attacked when it ought to be protected.

Instead, we liberals painted ourselves into a corner and made this contradictory statement: “The political atmosphere has become too toxic … and it’s the other side’s bloody fault.”

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Giffords Shot

A horrible tragedy in Arizona today. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat in the House of Representatives representing the eighth district, was shot in the head outside a supermarket in Tuscon at close range. Seventeen others were shot as well, six of them killed, including one child. Giffords was originally reported to be dead, but later it was reported she survived, and it appears she will recover.

There is already rampant speculation about who is responsible: perhaps a febrile Tea Party sympathizer (Sarah Palin and others targeted Giffords as a traitor on the health care bill), or a member of a drug cartel (Giffords is outspoken on drug enforcement) or an anti-immigration activist (Giffords was reportedly soft on Arizona’s new racist immigration bill). A lot of liberals are already blaming the overheated and sometimes militaristic rhetoric on the right, including Palin’s, for the shooting. (An immigration judge was shot as well.)

I think this is a big mistake. It’s too early to make pronouncements about who is responsible. And even if it were a Tea Party activist, liberals ought to be more thoughtful in their response. Not all Republicans or even Tea Party activists are responsible for one act of violence, any more than all Muslims were responsible for 9/11. There is no legal basis for saying Palin or Beck (who sometimes had Giffords on his show) ever made actual violent threats or encouraged violence as a means to score political ends.  The rhetoric of right wingers like Beck and Palin is sick, perverted, fetishistic, often full of categorically wrong facts and, if you throw in Rush Limbaugh’s windbaggery as well, even cryptically racist, too, but not criminal.

Giffords is a smart public servant who doesn’t toe any party line really as far as I can tell. She’s for gun rights and for immigration reform. It seems, if anything, she’s dedicated herself to being open minded. So I don’t see her as a right wing bete noire or Democratic mealy mouther either. It would be sad if she left us. And for many reasons, including her all-important life, I’m not in a hurry to make her a left-wing martyr this afternoon.

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