Modern America has endured such moments before. The intense ideological clashes of the 1960s, which centered on Communism and civil rights and Vietnam, were marked by a series of assassinations that changed the course of American history, carried out against a televised backdrop of urban riots and self-immolating war protesters. During the culture wars of the 1990s, fought over issues like gun rights and abortion, right-wing extremists killed 168 people in Oklahoma City and terrorized hundreds of others in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park and at abortion clinics in the South.
What’s different about this moment is the emergence of a political culture — on blogs and Twitter and cable television — that so loudly and readily reinforces the dark visions of political extremists, often for profit or political gain. It wasn’t clear Saturday whether the alleged shooter in Tucson was motivated by any real political philosophy or by voices in his head, or perhaps by both. But it’s hard not to think he was at least partly influenced by a debate that often seems to conflate philosophical disagreement with some kind of political Armageddon.
The problem here doesn’t lie with the activists like most of those who populate the Tea Parties, ordinary citizens who are doing what citizens are supposed to do — engaging in a conversation about the direction of the country. Rather, the problem would seem to rest with the political leaders who pander to the margins of the margins, employing whatever words seem likely to win them contributions or TV time, with little regard for the consequences.
The more pressing question, though, is where this all ends — whether we will begin to re-evaluate the piercing pitch of our political debate in the wake of Saturday’s shooting, or whether we are hurtling unstoppably into a frightening period more like the late 1960s.
The country labors still to recover from the memories of Dealey Plaza and the Ambassador Hotel, of Memphis and Birmingham and Watts. Tucson will either be the tragedy that brought us back from the brink, or the first in a series of gruesome memories to come.
Pretty good article in the Washington Post about today's shooting, the sadness attributed to it, and the atrociousness of the punditry and politicians that whet these peoples' appetite for violence.
My heart goes out to the parents of the little child that was killed in this shooting spree, as well as to the judge's family.
Are we headed to assassinations circa 1968? I sure hope not.
At least the Republicans are postponing any vote on the HCR repeal, one, out of respect for Rep. Giffords, and two, to try and reschedule their schedule.
Are we beyond the "can't we all just get along" dialogue?
UPDATE: Courtesy of Daily Kos:
What we're going to be saturated with for the next week or so are the inevitable false equivalencies. We'll hear, for instance, how there are "nuts on both sides." Undeniably true. But there is no ubiquitous liberal - much less, left-wing - network of talk-radio stations spouting Two Minutes' Hate 24/7. The collective voice of the right wing on radio and the Internet with its coded and uncoded calls to violence, of "2nd Amendment remedies," of cross hairs superimposed on states and on individuals simply has no visible counterpart on the left. When the right discusses the violent left, it must seek overseas examples or something from decades ago in America's past.