On January 8 it happened at last: the chickens of Sarah Palin's narrow-minded, anti-American hatred came home to roost. One of the democratic congresswomen she had targeted for "removal" - literally putting her district in the crosshairs of a rifle sight - was shot in her Tuscon, Arizona district by a "deranged gunman." Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is on life support; one of her staffers, a nine-year-old girl, a Federal judge, and three others who were in the crowd are dead.
This political assassination is not collateral damage or an unintended consequence of the rabble-rousing Palin and her Tea Party supporters. This is the expected outcome of a long, well-funded, highly organized campaign designed to terrorize candidates, elected officials, and voters who disagree with the Tea Party's goals.
In the summer of 2009, numerous sitting congressman were assaulted, accosted, shouted down, threatened with guns, and otherwise intimidated at town hall meetings with their own constituents. In January 2010, the number of threats against elected officials," almost exclusively against Democrats who had supported health insurance reform, " reached an all-time high of 42. Later that year a congressman and long-time civil rights leader was spat upon as he walked to the capitol while his Republican "colleagues" stood on the balcony of America's very seat of government and urged the rabble on.
It was only a matter of time before someone with a gun, a loose cog, and anger stoked and fed and encouraged by the right wing, took to heart Palin's suggestion of putting real people in real crosshairs, and pulled the trigger.
Of course, those who are behind this new level of violence disclaim all responsibility. According to the AP, Palin "issued a statement in which she expressed her 'sincere condolences' to the family of Giffords and the other victims." But as Giffords herself had pointed out in an MSNBC interview after her office was vandalized following her health reform vote, "We're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action."
Palin is as blandly dismissive of the real consequences of her hate as was Giffords' Republican challenger last fall, Jesse Kelly. Kelly is a former Marine who served in Iraq and was pictured on his website in military gear holding his automatic weapon to promote his fundraisers, at which, the AP reports, he "urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully loaded M-16 rifle."
But Kelly's spokesman John Ellinwood says, ""I don't see the connection" between the fundraisers featuring weapons and Saturday's shooting. He doesn't know the shooter, so he's not responsible.
Of course not! How could there possibly be any connection between a harridan traveling the country, screeching at rallies that her angry audience must get rid of those people -" those democratically elected representatives -" identified on her website as specific targets in the crosshairs of a rifle; and a candidate taking on one of those targeted representatives by inviting supporters to "remove Giffords from office" by joining him for target practice; and someone else, two months later, doing exactly what they urged him to do.
Do I blame Sarah Palin and Arizona governor Jan Brewer and Dick Armey and their ilk for this heinous crime against America? I do. Because when you point at the target, tell the public to "get rid of" someone, urge them to engage in target practice, and all but hand them a gun, you can hardly disclaim responsibility.
These are people who prefer loud noise and violent action to reasoned discussion and the compromise necessary to a democratic society. They disdain the ballot box, asserting that if they don't win there they'll win with a box of bullets. And now they're doing exactly that.