Since the tragic shooting in Arizona yesterday, I've seen a few debates on Facebook pages.
Liberals blame Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and their ilk, for raising the level of hateful ire and actually using gun imagery and violent language in their political rhetoric.
Conservatives are upset that liberals are politicizing this issue. They say that the shooter acted alone and was apparently apolitical, so how can we now for sure whether the violent political rhetoric influenced him?
Well, we know for sure that it certainly didn't help.
I think it goes way beyond political rhetoric though. It's the desensitizing of violence across our culture. It's parents who allow their kids to play Halo and Grand Theft Auto in early elementary school or earlier. Or others who take their kids to see violence-drenched movies at a very young age (or even a later age). Or those who actively encourage their kids to wear camouflage clothing.
It's even in our sports venacular. Stomp the other team. Kill 'em. Kick their asses.
It's certainly in the comments of any article on the internet...those comments make me fear for the future of decent civilization.
Yes, hateful, violent political speech--everywhere--does beget this kind of violence. It seems clear that this shooter was mentally ill and perhaps schizophrenic. But he targeted a politician, her staff, and her constituents.
When Ann Coulter calls for the execution of politicians, Sarah Palin posts a map with guns targeting politicians she hates, and the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh spew hatred on a daily basis, can we really say we didn't see something like this coming? I for one was terrified that Barack Obama would not survive the first year of his presidency, given the amount of hatred directed at him.
Yet the conservatives are lashing back hard at liberals who say that violent, hateful language contributed to this tragedy. They apparently see no connection. And I suppose far-too-lenient gun laws are not to blame either. What about the 40 percent increase in police officer deaths in 2010 (160 officers struck dead in the line of duty)? Guns are easy to get, and hateful, violent speech is par for the course.
The saddest thing about this story is that the 9-year-old girl who died, Christina Taylor-Green, was born on September 11, 2001. She was featured in a book called Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11. Instead of being allowed to live her life as a testament of hope in this violent world, she was shot down in cold blood, in the same kind of hatred invoked on 9/11. But this time the hatred was encouraged by us.