The disturbing case of Gabrielle Giffords

Gabrielle Giffords

Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.)

I’m already fed up with the partisan discussions of the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in Tucson Jan. 8. Here is a timeline of events leading up to that senseless tragedy that has left six people dead and 14 wounded. Take off whatever blinders you wear and consider these things. There are lessons to be learned here, and it’s nothing like “The Right is crazy,” or “The Left is more violent,” or any other B.S. like that.

August 25, 2007 – Jared Lee Loughner meets Giffords at a “Congress on your Corner” event at the Foothills Mall in Tucson. An acquaintance of Loughner claims he asked Giffords a question and found her to be “stupid and unintelligent.” Another friend recounts a story of Loughner attending a Giffords event around that time and, when the floor was opened up to questions, his asking her, “What is government if words have no meaning?” Another friend recalls Giffords paused a moment, said something in Spanish, then went on with the meeting. The encounter led Loughner to call her a “fake.” This is likely when his grudge against Giffords started.

August 20, 2009 – A story on The Huffington Post notes that an attendee at a Giffords town hall event, held during the heat of the health care reform debate, dropped a gun. Giffords’ staff calls Tucson police in fear for her safety.

March 21, 2010 – The front door to Giffords’ Tucson district office is shattered after she casts a “yes’ vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

March 23, 2010 – Sarah Palin tweets:

Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!” Pls see my Facebook page.

Her Facebook page announced the “Take Back the 20 Campaign,” and included a map of the United States, those 20 districts marked by crosshairs. Giffords’ district is one of the 20. Rebecca Mansour said in an interview recently that those marks were never intended to be gun sights, and could’ve been seen as “surveyor’s symbols.” But Palin herself tweeted after the 2010 Midterm Elections and referred to the “‘bullsyeye’ icon used 2 target the 20 Obamacare-lovin’ incumbent seats…”

March 25, 2010 – Gifford appears on MSNBC to discuss the vandalism. During the interview she said:

“…We’re on Sarah Palin’s ‘targeted’ list. But the thing is, the way she has it depicted, has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that action.”

June 6, 2010 – An event is held for Giffords’ opponent, Jesse Kelly. The event is advertised as such:

Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office...

Nov. 3 2010 – Giffords narrowly defeats Kelly to win reelection in Arizona’s 8th District, 138,280 to 134, 124.

Jan. 7, 2010 – Giffords e-mails Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, saying, in part:

“…I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation. I am one of only 12 Dems left in a GOP district (the only woman) and think that we need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down.”

Jan. 8, 2010 – Loughner shoots 20 people, including Giffords, killing 6 at a “Congress on your Corner” event in Tucson.

This timeline isn’t designed to attach this shooting to Palin, or imply that there’s blood on her hands in any way. I personally think Loughner was a very deeply disturbed person – some would say crazy – and his actions probably had little or nothing to do with politics.

But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s time to rethink our rhetoric. I vowed months ago to be more careful about the words I use when I talk about politicians. It is too easy to use words and imagery that rob these public servants of their humanity and reduce them to mere characitures, mustache-twirling villains pent on destroying everything we love.

Crazy people will do crazy things – “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” for example – and there’s not much we can do about that. But there’s no reason to allow the threats of violence, the suggestions of “2nd Amendment remedies,” or any other pseudo-violent word choices to become an accepted way of speaking about our public figures. It only opens the door to violent acts. No one should be murdered or fear for their life because of their political points of view or the votes they cast.

One more thought on this, maybe the most important lesson to be learned here: If you know someone who seems disturbed – a scrambled, nonsensical thinker as one former teacher described Loughner – love that person and encourage them to get help. Don’t just write them off as weird or strange and leave it that. You don’t know what kind of tragedy you might be preventing.

–QCFM

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