Sunday, January 9, 2011
It was a sad day in America yesterday, with the killing yesterday of a federal judge, John Roll (appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991), as well as the shooting of a member of a Democratic member of the U.S. Congress, Gabrielle Giffords. We should all pray for the speedy recovery of the surviving victims of the violence as well as the dead, including a nine-year old child as well as Judge Roll.
As more facts become known about the incident and we contemplate why it happened, the nation should, as Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has advised, do some soul-searching. What kind of political culture have we created?
The truth be told, can anyone be surprised by the fact that this tragedy occurred in Arizona, which over the last year and more has been the place of constant agitation and frequent hateful debate over immigration, birthright citizenship, ethnic studies, etc.? The hatred directed at the President, "illegal aliens," "anchor babies," and the like by a number of Arizona political leaders, conservative "shock jocks," and news commentators has been non-stop for months. Indeed, the focus of an economic boycott and daily national attention, Arizona has been referred to as the "state of hate."
The Huffington Post has a story by Robert Naiman that discusses "the target map that Sarah Palin published, showing Gabrielle Giffords' Congressional District under the cross hairs of a gun." Whether or not that imagery is directly related to yesterday's violence, it is part of a prevalent form of political debate today that incorporates violent imagery and helps create an environment that can support and nurture the kind of tragic events that occurred in Arizona. Some might say that, given the hateful nature of much of the modern political discourse with violent imagery of this kind, it was only a matter of time.
Nor, at a time when hate crimes have been directed at Latinos and immigrants in states across the nation (see, e.g., here for a story last August on anti-Mexican hate crimes on Staten Island), should we treat the issue as limited to political fringes of Arizona. The nation, not just Arizona, must do some soul-searching.