I grew up in DC and one of my earliest political memories is hearing the “SPECIAL REPORT!!” announcement on TV about Reagan being shot. These days the mechanism is different, I think I read about it on a blog first, but it certainly was all over twitter. I still had that same sinking feeling, though.
I don’t know if the shooter was inspired by the violent rhetoric coming from the Tea Party. I don’t know if he saw the gunsights on Palin’s map and it triggered a cascade of thoughts that led to his actions. I don’t know if the over the top statements about “watering the tree of liberty” and “second amendment remedies” made him think that shooting politicians is an acceptable way to resolve issues.
What I do know is that everyone who cheered or applauded or agreed with Tea Partier statements about second amendment remedies cannot say that they didn’t mean this. This *is* a second amendment remedy. It is a disgruntled citizen using a gun to bring about political change. If this is not what they meant, if they weren’t really calling for people to kill their political opponents, then they should not have couched the discussion in such violent terms. They should not have said that killing someone elected to office is an acceptable response to electoral loss.
It’s way too early to speculate about why he did it. But I do think that the over-the-top rhetoric and demonizing of people who have different political viewpoints contributed to a shared consciousness that violence is acceptable.
Not that this is any groundbreaking news or even a properly written essay developing these thoughts into a true argument.