Saturday, Jan 8, US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Federal Judge John Roll and many others, including a nine-year-old girl were shot during the congresswoman’s constituency meeting at a Tucson, Ariz. Safeway grocery store parking lot. As of Sunday morning six have been reported killed, including Judge Roll, and 12 wounded, including Rep. Giffords, who was shot in the head and is expected to survive.
In no uncertain terms, the Communist Party USA strongly and unequivocally condemns this outrageous act of violence. We extend our condolences to the family and friends of the victims. We hope for full recoveries for all the wounded, including Rep. Giffords.
It is reported that law enforcement has in custody a 22-year-old white man, Jared Lee Loughner, as the accused shooter. It is not clear whether the shooter acted alone or with accomplices.
Many are dubbing this a tragedy, which undoubtedly it is. But it doesn’t end there.
While we do not yet know the motivation of the crime, many have surmised that the motivation is political because of the atmosphere of violent language and threats against Rep. Giffords and other Congressional Democrats. Political or not, the extreme right-wing tea party movement and their anti-government rantings and ravings helped create an atmosphere that allowed or even encouraged this attack. For instance, until the day of the event when it was removed, Sarah Palin featured Giffords on her webpage with the congresswoman’s district in the crosshairs of a gun, targeting her for her support of healthcare reform.
Political hate speech has consequences. Giffords herself said, “Palin has crosshairs on our district; people have to realize there are consequences to that.” She said that in a TV interview after her Arizona office had been broken into and vandalized after her vote for the national health care reform bill. Giffords was a frequent target of the tea party movement. Judge Roll, a Republican, had also received threats from the right.
Yet, the link to rhetoric and violence doesn’t end with the Palin and her tea party. It extends to the political leadership of Arizona and the Republican Party, who have fomented laws and policies that logically lead to violence. Starting with the anti-immigrant SB 1070 and banning ethnic studies, leaders like Governor Jan Brewer, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio have to take as much responsibility for this violence as Palin and her cohorts. All their condolences ring hollow because of their callous inflammatory rhetoric and romanticization of guns and “Second Amendment remedies”. Arizona is burning. It is Ground Zero for this extreme far-right, and their corporate, multi-billionaire sponsors. In the words of Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik in responding to political mood leading to the shooting shooting, “Arizona I think has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
In the hours after the shooting, some right wing elements seem to have created fake social networking pages in order to associate Loughner with the Left. The full story about the mental state and political motivations for the shooter will hopefully come to light soon. The attempt to paint this suspect as a leftist continues the far-right’s use of anti-communism and anti-democratic rhetoric to cover-up their own role in continuing the hate until its logical violent conclusion.
It was Giffords father, 75-year-old Spencer Giffords, who wept when asked if his 40-year-old daughter had any enemies, and answered, “Yeah,” to The New York Post, “The whole tea party.”
This shooting marks a dangerous and sad day for our country. It’s up to the American people to say, “Enough” to the hate, the racism, incitement to violence and the fascist-like behavior of anti-government thugs. Political violence and assassination has no place in our democracy.