Sunday, January 9, 2011

"Gun Crosshairs," other violent imagery, needs to end

Following the devastating shooting in Tuscon, Arizona on Saturday involving Congresswoman Giffords and several others (including a federal judge and a nine-year old child), many political pundits have wondered out loud what role our political climate (and more specifically, violent campaign rhetoric) played in the incident. Though Jared Loughner was a disturbed individual who may make a compelling insanity argument when his day in court comes, there is no doubt at all that our culture has created a mess within our political discourse -- it wouldn't be a surprise to anyone at all if Loughner's actions were driven in part by the imagery that politicians and commentators have pushed.

No one should place actual blame, however, on anyone but Loughner -- the idea that this young man could be driven to act out in this way by rhetoric alone is as absurd an idea as a person being driven to kill based on Beatles' lyrics. But there is a compelling case to be made that our political culture could fuel the flames of some mad man's desires, could court a flawed mind to commit such heinous acts of violence.

When you "target" certain members of Congress using images of gun crosshairs, you're suggesting that violence isn't something to take seriously, isn't an issue of much concern for you. When you invite supporters to shoot an automatic weapon with others to show your opposition to an incumbent, you demonstrate to those you surround yourself with that violent acts are an acceptable form of political protest. When you suggest that you hope "Second Amendment remedies" won't be needed following an election, you condone the use of brutality, justifying violence as not only acceptable but necessary to do what you -- and your followers -- believe is right.

We shouldn't be surprised, then, when a disturbed person like Loughner takes up arms to make his point. Again, responsibility ultimately rests with him -- nobody suggested that anyone actually use violence -- but one also can't help but feel that politicians and pundits who spew such vile content, failing to lead by example (disagreeing with opponents in an honorable, decent way), may have played some role in influencing his actions.

It'll be interesting to see whether, come Monday, these pundits will apologize for their rhetoric or defend it. I'm not holding my breath for the former, counting more on the latter for people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck -- it'd be tough for anyone who has made a career on such a basis to change so suddenly. But perhaps we can look forward to a new attitude in Congress itself, as well as on the sidewalks of Main Streets across the country. It's just sad that an incident like this had to come along to enact that change, if it indeed comes.

We can disagree all we want, and nothing is wrong with that; but when we use violence to display that disagreement, something is terribly, terribly wrong.


  1. Baloney. Crazy people do crazy things. If it wasn't Sarah Palin ( which there is no evidence that is was ) it would have been Ronald McDonald. The guy was nuts.

  2. No "crosshairs" are shown. The image I saw on the news was a circle with a vertical and horizontal line through the middle. In desktop publishing and other applications, this is a (non-printing) registration mark for lining up different pages or layers.

  3. Similar target-style graphics were used on a DLC website and nobody said anything. The left has behaved in such a shameful fashion over this crime.

  4. I'll grant you that the DLC website isn't a good thing either. I'm not a terrible fan of the DLC to begin with. But two wrongs don't make a right...