As you’ve probably heard, a Congresswoman from Arizona was shot in the head at close range yesterday. A number of other people were also shot and several were killed, including a 9 year-old girl and the Chief Judge of Arizona.
Congresswoman Giffords had just been re-elected in a close race to serve her third term in the House of Representatives. She was holding an event for her constituents to come to see her about their problems, as any good politician does, and now she is fighting for her life in hospital.
This is shocking news. We are used to politicians being assassinated and attacked in other, less democratic countries – a regional governor in Pakistan was assassinated last Tuesday – but it does not happen in the West, we think.
Except, it does. Not often, admittedly, but a few years ago a Swedish minister was stabbed and killed in a shopping centre and last year a British MP was also stabbed at a constituency event (he survived).
Yesterday’s events are an attack not only on Representative Giffords, her staff and innocent bystanders, but on democracy itself. They will be condemned by every right-thinking person, but the increasing fractures between the left and the right in America since the emergence of the Tea Party make this sort of thing increasingly likely.
Interestingly, Sarah Palin had a map on her website recently indicating the districts whose representatives had voted for President Obama’s health care bill, which she and her right-wing followers despise. The map says ‘We’ve diagnosed the problem… Help us prescribe the solution.” The symbol used to indicate the relevant districts on the map was the crosshairs of a gun.
Here is Congresswoman Giffords’ response to that:
There are no words.
Of course, in the interests of fairness, it must be pointed out that the gunman is not talking to police and therefore it is not yet clear what his motive was. There is, as yet, no indication that he was motivated by political concerns (though it is a fair bet considering he shot an elected official). I am also not suggesting that Sarah Palin intended the people marked in her map to be shot – it’s quite possible that she had no direct involvement in the production of the map and I do not believe for a moment that she would encourage violence towards those who disagree with her. She’s crazy, but not that crazy. In hindsight though, it does appear foolish.
I’ll be watching the news closely and hoping for good news from Tucson.