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    Blood on Their Hands?

    Like most citizens of this country, I am shocked and abhorred by the news of the rampage in Arizona this past weekend in which six people were slain, including federal judge John Roll, and 14 were injured, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. For me, the revelation of this news event bordered on the surreal: I had chosen to spend the late morning and early afternoon on Saturday to review my 2011 edition of Writers Market, and decided to pop in one of my old VHS movies while I sat on the couch evaluating the criteria of various agents. The movie I chose was one of my favorites, Oliver Stone's JFK, which runs a little over three hours and centers on perhaps the most sinister assassination in our nation's violent history, the 1963 shooting of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. I remember I was thinking about the director's gap-filling historical fictionalization (the Deep Throat-like encounter  between Kevin Costner's Jim Garrison and Donald Sutherland's "X" in Washington, D.C.), as well as the impact the film always has upon me when a teary-eyed Costner laments, "Do not forget your dying king", while I tried to grasp the radically changing social climate of the 1960's, being just a toddler at the time of Kennedy's death.  The film ended and I switched back to satellite TV, only to see the news of Gifford's shooting unfolding on MSNBC.

    Much of the public discourse today is now focusing on the effects of vitriolic rhetoric that many feel played a role in the attack on Congresswoman Giffords. As an advocate for univerasal health care, I followed the debate closely in 2009 and continue to do so today, and watched the anti-health care activists with images of bloody hands on their buses ramp up that rhetoric since President Obama came into office, tossing around skewered terms like "Government Take-Over", "Death Panels", and "Job-Killing Health Care", all of which are not only incendiary but provably false. But now we are being told that we shouldn't be playing the "blame game", because there is vitriolic rhetoric on both sides and that both sides are to blame. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't remember liberals posting maps with crosshairs on conservative candidates' districts and telling constituents to "reload" as Sarah Palin did, or recommending "Second Amendment remedies" like Sharon Angle suggested, or introducing the imagery of firearms into political ads and fundraisers like any number of Republicans did during mid-term campaigning.  The effort now seems to be to depict Jared Loughner as a crazed loner in the same light as Timothy McVeigh and Scott Roeder, and he may very well be all of that, but we can't keep whipping the public into a frenzy over divisive poliltical issues and then scratch our heads when someone blows a cork and goes postal. Telling both sides to cool the rhetoric is like bringing the bully and the kid with the bloody nose together and telling them to play nice. Instead, we need to have set standards about what is and isn't acceptable in political discourse, and ramifications for those who fail to measure up to those standards, and their sponsors as well.  Even if it turns out that Giffords' politics had no motivation on Loughner to shoot her, the violent imagery goes a long way in making armed assault a viable option in the mind of the mentally unstable.

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