“Don’t retreat; reload,” Sarah Palin once urged her supporters.
Tea Party partisans cheered and scratched their trigger fingers - figuratively, of course, we hope.
Fiery rhetoric can be fun until somebody opens fire.
Now a young man with an itchy trigger figure and a fatal grudge has opened fire with a real gun and a clip extension that let him fire bullets one after another until 20 people fell, six dead and 14 wounded, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Jared L. Loughner, 22, didn’t retreat, either. He reloaded before brave, good citizens disarmed and restrained him until police arrived.
Is Loughner simply the “lunatic” that some people try to paint him to be? Or, was he focused and intent on political assassination, a soldier of destiny who set out on a political combat mission for whatever the reason?
Either or both might prove to be true.
Supposedly sane intentional political violence is not uncommon, you know.
In America, some people view some political killing as perfectly acceptable. Some killing is unacceptable. People even argue about what actually constitutes killing.
Launching killer drone strikes into the heart of an enemy village is considered sheer patriotism, even when civilians die in the process. Former U.S. Rep. Chris Carney publicly boasted that he had his finger on the trigger as a military reservist charged with helping to launch the warheads that kill those human targets that oppose American democracy.
Conversely, many abortion opponents consider the legal American Constitutional right to an abortion to be murder.
But who would consider a cold-blooded political assassination in America to be justified? More people than you might want to imagine likely advocate political killing as a legitimate response to what they consider tyranny.
Remember Ruby Ridge.
Remember Wounded Knee.
Before being gunned down in Harlem in an internal political coup, Malcolm X said, “If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us, and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And, if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.”
By any means necessary. Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes. Up against the wall, (expletive deleted). Whether our villains are the Weathermen Underground or David Koresh or Timothy McVeigh, homegrown violence in America and for America is all about America.
No matter who pulls the trigger, we always ask “why?” In the aftermath of the Tucson shooting rampage, we must again ask “why?” and “what now?” Above all, we must continue the conversation.
Sadly, the new 112th Congress had decided that all debate this week will be cancelled.
More speech, not less speech, helps accomplishes the sometimes grisly job of democracy.
After the reading the Constitution aloud from the House floor last week, Giffords said in an interview that she was particularly proud to have read the First Amendment. The right to fee expression is a cornerstone of our nation. Unbridled discussion that includes severe social criticism about government and government officials is crucial to the continuation of the republic. Phony bipartisan discourse – maybe even hugs across the aisle on the House floor – impedes progress.
I want to inflame. I want to incite. I want to provoke. I want to display the fierce bold strokes of dissent that created the Constitution in the first place.