Gabrielle Giffords, Sarah Palin, and political responsibility*

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The tragedy that unfolded this weekend in Tucson is absolutely unspeakable, and our thoughts should be with the families of those murdered and those still struggling against horrific injuries inflicted during what now appears to be a premeditated rampage.

But we also need to keep in mind that responsibility lies not just with the suspect himself, but with those who exploited his mistrust, his instability, his fringe beliefs, and his fight-or-flight instinct for political advantage.

We’ve already made note of Giffords’ opponent last November, who held a fundraiser at a firing range involving firing weapons to “remove Gabrielle Giffords.” Sarah Palin put crosshairs on Giffords and several other Democrats’ districts before the election (and no, bullseyes are not the same as crosshairs).

Can we blame Kelly and Palin directly for this shooting? Of course not; they were nowhere nearby, and in all likelihood had no communication whatsoever with the alleged killer. But will Kelly, Palin, and the rest of their ilk ever take responsibility for the violence of their own rhetoric?

These are the same people who would have us believe that homosexual couples are not fit to adopt children because they might push unsavory ideas upon impressionable youth. I disagree with them about the civil rights aspect, but hey, people are impressionable, fine.

Yet when a tragedy like this occurs, Palin and the rest immediately respond that their rhetoric wasn’t about guns or violence! People are responsible for themselves!

No middle ground, no fence to sit on. Either people respond to rhetoric and propaganda or they don’t.

Palin and the rest of the modern Conservative-with-a-Capital-C movement cannot have it both ways. Their violent rhetoric is designed precisely to turn rational, thinking Americans into fight-or-flight, fear-driven creatures, willing to do anything to anyone because they are frightened of everything and everyone. America is better than that, and the sooner they take responsibility for their own rhetoric and what it has wrought upon our nation, the better off we will all be for it.

*Other possible titles for this post include the following:

“Did shooter attend her opponent’s “come shoot guns to remove Giffords” fundraiser? Irresponsible not to speculate.”

“Are gays more influential than Sarah Palin (by her own admission)?”