Tucson: a Family Tragedy, an American Tragedy.
by Abby Margolis Newman
My kids are no strangers to political rallies. They have met John Kerry and John Edwards, and have accompanied me to protests against the Iraq War. I have a picture of my middle son, Aaron, from a local newspaper in 2004: he is sitting on my husband's shoulders, holding a handmade "Down with Bush! Go Kerry!" sign.
Aaron was nine at the time. I couldn't help but think about this when I heard about the shooting last weekend in Tucson, and the horrible fact that among the six dead is a nine-year-old girl, Christina Taylor Green, who was there to meet Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Christina was a third-grader who had recently been elected to her student council. Rep. Giffords was shot in the head, and is facing a long and difficult recovery in a Tucson hospital.
I recently wrote a column bemoaning the lack of civility in American politics and how it seems to have gotten to a point of crisis since the election of President Obama. Yes, there has always been vitriol in politics, but unless one is in utter denial, one cannot ignore the fact that - beginning with the 2008 election cycle (with people shouting "Kill Obama!" at Sarah Palin rallies) and continuing through the fight over healthcare (characterized by town-hall style meetings overrun by screaming, red-faced "Tea Party" folk who were there simply to disrupt and intimidate), our political climate and rhetoric has gotten much, much worse.
I will be honest here: I am someone who believes, with all my heart, that George W. Bush was the worst president in modern history. He took office at a time of peace and prosperity and job creation, and got us mired in two (illegal, undeclared) wars; wrecked our economy, turning surpluses into huge deficits (in part by giving giant tax cuts to the already-rich); and by the last year of Bush's presidency, our country was bleeding 700,000 jobs per month.
The vast majority of those who, like me, vehemently disagreed with almost every move Bush made did not threaten violence against him. We did not carry guns to rallies. We did not go to town hall meetings with the sole intent of creating rude, disruptive anarchy. We did not throw rocks through windows of Congressional offices (as happened to several Democrats during the healthcare debate), nor did we spit on them and use offensive racial slurs or threats (as experienced by Democratic Representatives John Lewis of Georgia and James Clyburn of South Carolina, both African-American).
We did not - as Sarah Palin did - put a U.S. map on a website with gun-target cross hairs over the districts of certain candidates (including Ms. Giffords's), implying that those people needed to be "taken out" in the election of 2010.
Why did Republican political leaders not step forward to condemn this clearly dangerous trend? While all this was happening, the Republicans and conservatives in high-profile roles in politics and in the media were silent - and their silence created an impression of complicity.