A tragedy is not an opportunity to score political points

The woman who blamed Sarah Palin for inciting violence

On January 8th a 9 year old girl who had just been elected to the student council at her local elementary school was taken to see Representative Gabrielle Giffords at a mall in Tucson Arizona as a treat. Shortly after 10 am Christina Taylor Green was shot dead along with five other people. Representative Giffords, shot in the head at point blank range, remains in a coma.

A 22 year old man named Jared Lee Loughner has been charged with the shooting. Like Arthur Bremer, who shot Alabama governor George Wallace in 1972, Loughner may simply have wanted “to do SOMETHING BOLD AND DRAMATIC, FORCEFUL & DYNAMIC, A STATEMENT of my manhood for the world to see”. On his YouTube account Loughner lists his favourite books as ‘The Communist Manifesto’, ‘Mein Kampf’, ‘We the Living’ by the libertarian Ayn Rand and Plato’s ‘Republic’. On the morning of the shooting he posted on MySpace “Goodbye friends. Please don’t be mad at me. The literacy rate is below 5%. I haven’t talked to one person who is literate. I want to make it out alive. The longest war in the history of the United States. Goodbye. I’m saddened with the current currency and job employment. I had a bully at school. Thank you. P.S. –plead the fifth!”

Quite simply we do not know what prompted a deranged lunatic to carry out these awful acts.But where most saw tragedy some saw opportunity. The horrible death of Christina Taylor Green quickly became simply the latest stick with which beat Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.

It started with the reaction of Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnick, a Democrat, who said in the immediate aftermath of the shooting “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry”

This is quite a jump. Already the motives of the gunman are seen as political despite the fact that Dupnick had not yet spoken to him. Dupnick can be forgiven for his this lapse. A local Sherriff thrust into the media spotlight and also dealing with the death of his friend, John Roll, a local judge.

But from there a gaggle of left wingers were ready to hijack the tragedy.

On MSNBC Keith Olbermann blamed, not the gunman who shot Christina Taylor Green, but a list of well known conservatives such as TV hosts Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, former Senate candidate Sharron Angle, former Congressional candidate Jesse Kelly, Congressman Allen West, the Tea Party as a whole and bete noir of the left, Sarah Palin. Olbermann, a Democrat, made the nonsensical statement that

“If all of these are not responsible for what happened in Tucson, they must now be responsible for doing everything they can to make sure Tucson doesn’t happen again”

The argument seemed to be that the rhetoric of those on the right is ‘extreme’ and had pushed the Arizona gunman to act. That there was no evidence for this is one thing, but it is also grosly hypocritical. Olbermann, after all, routinely claims that the “Worst man in the world” is not Osama Bin Laden or Josef Fritzl, but Bill O’Reilly, a man who’s political opinions he happens to disagree with. When Republican Scott Brown was surprisingly elected to the Senate for Massachusetts, Olbermann called Brown “an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, Tea Bagging supporter of violence against women, and against politicians with whom he disagrees”

Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, revealed a hitherto unsuspected gift for clairvoyance when he wrote on his blog for the New York Times “We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was”.

The left quickly bumped Palin to the top of its suspect list for those ‘really’ guilty of the shootings. Jane Fonda who, during the Vietnam War, posed for photographs at the controls of a North Vietnamese anti aircraft gun which was used to shoot down American pilots, accused Sarah Palin of “Inciting to violence” (she also threw in Glenn Beck and the Tea Party).

The reason for blaming Palin seemed to boil down to a map on her website which highlighted Congressional districts she wanted the Republicans to win in October. She marked them with cross hairs which, in the minds of some, equated to an incitement to violence.

These people have probably never been involved in a political campaign before. You have ‘target seats’ and the people stuffing envelopes through doors are routinely called ‘foot soldiers’. Indeed, the very word ‘campaign’ was also used to describe the German invasion of Soviet Russia. If Sarah Palin is guilty then everyone is. Even President Obama who said, back in June 2008, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun. Because from what I understand folks in Philly like a good brawl. I’ve seen Eagles fans”

Obama is no more or less guilty than Palin. The truth is that the guilt lies with the psychotic who murdered six people.

The deaths of these six people at the hands of a maniac are heartbreaking. As human beings our first reaction should be to empathise with those who are wounded or bereaved. That the reactions of some on the left has simply been to try and pin a political rosette to the coffin of Christina Taylor Green ought to make them ashamed of themselves.