Gabrielle Giffords

Everyone has an opinion about the recent shooting/attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords last Saturday, so I guess I’m entitled to voice a few of my own. Take ’em or leave ’em, as you see fit. I wanted to wait a few days for the shock to die down, before I commented.

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First, Does anyone see a resemblance between the shooter (at least in this mug shot with his intentionally smirky expression) and that of Uncle Fester of the Addams Family? Maybe it’s my age, but that was my first thought when I saw this. Of course, Uncle Fester was a little kookie, so maybe the expression was intentional.

I really don’t want to make fun of someone who is possibly mentally ill, but, heh, I just did. Shoot me. (Ooops, sorry. My bad).

On a more sobering note, though, there now seems to be a difference between people as to whether we should lay blame for the act solely at the feet of the shooter, or whether we are allowed to make some more broad based criticisms, by pointing fingers at those who may have either intentionally or unintentionally egged him on. Frankly, I think it is perfectly valid to do the latter, for this reason:

IF the man is mentally ill, then he very well may have been affected by outside sources in arriving at the state of his mind that put him in front of the Safeway that Saturday morning with a Glock semi-automatic in his hand. Mr. Loughner lived in society, and was bombarded, as we all are, by ideas generated by others. Some of those ideas have recently gotten very extreme in their evocations. To say that the shooter was not affected by those ideas is to claim that ideas can have no effect on the listener, that they exist in a vacuum, and that we should never worry about the effect on a listener when we say them. That may be true for most, rational folks, those that can filter out the venom from the kernel of truth. But there is a minority of people who ARE mentally ill that cannot do that, and who might be adversely affected by the words, to the point of doing exactly what happened here.

I’m not saying that Sarah Palin (to take the most notorious example) used rifle sighting graphics to incite rational people to do something irrational. I’m also not advocating placing restrictions on speech. But people like Sarah Palin should think before they speak (or before they publish)  about what their words might mean to someone who isn’t thinking like them. Sarah Palin should graciously accept some of the blame for possibly inciting a mentally disturbed, clearly irrational person, to mistake her meaning and act on what he thinks she intended. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what her intention was, it only matters how it was interpreted.

Putting 20 gun rifle images on a map linked to twenty politicians who you clearly say you are targeting, coupled with repeated drumbeat gun language like “Don’t retreat, reload” was irresponsible, and she was culpable, even if unintentionally and minimally. She was pandering to her gun-hugging base, and while it is shallow, it’s understandable. She shouldn’t be ashamed of  pandering to the lowest common denominator. Just own it. Words have meaning, as do graphics, and she should own up to them. The fact that she doesn’t says a lot about her character. If the roles were reversed, you can bet she’d agree with me.

Second, I think this is a great opportunity to revisit the gun control debate, and I am thoroughly dismayed to find so little in the press or in public opinion about it. It says a lot about our country where someone with clear, outward signs of mental instability not only doesn’t get the help he sorely needs, but is able to easily secure possession of weapons of mass destruction (and if you don’t think a Glock semi-automatic with a clip of 31 bullets qualifies as a WMD, you’re part of the problem.)

What is there about the Second Amendment that is so sacrosanct? The election of Senators and Congressmen is a function of government. The organization of the federal courts is a function of government. The right to impose taxes is a function of government. Exactly what function of government does the private possession of guns involve?

The answer is – today, none. Back in 1789, however, when there was no standing army, the private possession of guns was important. The government needed people with guns so that in the event of an emergency, they could call up the militia and not have the logistics or expense of providing arms to the men. This made sense when wars were fought strictly with firearms, and the occasional cannon. Nowadays, wars cannot be fought successfully if you have to rely on the militia to bring their guns.

And you cannot seriously argue that we should insure that the citizenry have unlimited access to guns in the event the government becomes tyrannical, in case the citizens have to rise up to protect themselves from their own government.  That would be foolish. That cat’s out of that bag. We’ve already abrogated our rights to the armed forces and all of its weaponry to our  government, because WE (THE PEOPLE, remember?) are the government. Your little Glock semi isn’t going to protect you from laser guided cruise missiles.

No. It’s time to repeal the Second Amendment. It’s an archaic holdover of history that hurts us more than it protects us. Leave it up to individual state and municipal government to regulate the possession of guns. Doing away with the Second Amendment would not mean that honest, responsible, stable people would no longer be able to own their pet hand guns or rifles, though it might mean you will no longer have the pleasure of ripping a tin can to shreds in 3.4 seconds with an automatic.

Third, and finally, is there anyone like me who has stepped back to marvel at how far women have come in one generation? I know it’s a macabre observation, but I grew up where people who were assassinated were all men, and the people who were blamed for it were all men. Today, a female Congresswoman is shot is the head, and people are pointing fingers at Sarah Palin.

You’ve come a long way, baby!

18 thoughts on “Gabrielle Giffords

  1. Manson was inspired by the White Album, wasn’t he? Should the Beatles have thought before they recorded? Should we all pause and consider how a fucking loon might take what we say or do before we act?

    The issue of guns is yet another example of where the Right is winning the battle, imo, largely due to defining the terms. Gun “control” was masterful, because it plays to that anti-authoritatrian streak that is as American as apple pie, and naturally plays to the fears of government that all “Real Americans” have. It’s quite easy to imagine your right to have a gun “controlled” away. Now imagine if the debate was over gun “responsibility”.

    • Manson’s theme song was Helter Skelter, which have lyrics so far removed from violence, murder and mayhem, that it leaves you scratching your head as to what attraction the song had for him, other than the title.

      Gun Responsibility. I like that.

  2. Putting 20 gun rifle images on a map linked to twenty politicians who you clearly say you are targeting, coupled with repeated drumbeat gun language like “Don’t retreat, reload” was irresponsible, and she was culpable, even if unintentionally and minimally.

    Until Loughner talks, we can’t be sure to what extent, if any, Palin’s target map played in this episode.

    We know that the man who intended to shoot up the Tides Foundation specifically identified Glenn Beck as providing him with the inspiration. The man who attacked worshipers in a Unitarian Church in Tennessee claimed to be inspired by Bernard Goldberg’s book. To my knowledge, thus far we don’t have anything from Loughner which can tie him to the rhetoric of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Sharon “Second Amendment Remedies” Angle and other Tea Party types. From what I’ve read, he had issues with Giffords that predate the 2010 election season.

    That being said, taking the extreme Right to task for its eliminationist rhetoric is a legitimate issue in its own right that one can press without reference to the shooting of Rep. Giffords (unless evidence arises later on).

  3. You’ve probably seen or heard about this by now, but here’s a link to Sarah Palin’s Don’t Blame Me When the Shit I Possibly Helped Incite Hits the Fan video. To hear Sarah tell it, we should count her as victim #20: she’s the victim of blood libel – a meme that’s been circulating among wingnuts for a few days.

    When I heard of the Tucson tragedy, I thought immediately of Sharron Angle’s “second amendment solutions” and wondered if someone had taken her advice. From what I’ve seen so far, it seems that Loughner was so seriously fucked up mentally that we may never know for sure what influenced him to do what he did, and to what degree those influences mattered. I think it’s easier for Palin to argue that her map was simply metaphorical than it is for Angle to claim that her “second amendment solutions” was anything less than an actual threat of violence if she and her cohorts don’t get their way. Even though we may never be able to link specific statements to Loughner, it’s hard to deny that the general social and political discursive climate in which he lives thrives on, and engenders, hostility. It’s unlikely that Loughner will ever be cited as a cohort of Angle’s, but we know that he was immersed in a culture that often uses – to the point of cliche – militaristic, violent language and imagery. The metaphors we use shape the way we think.

    Philly, I think political leaders – and those who want to be political leaders – should be conscious of the tones their language and imagery set. That doesn’t mean thinking about how deranged people will interpret them, but it does mean choosing words and images carefully. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch for someone, even a fairly sane but frustrated person, to take Sharron Angle’s “second amendment” rhetoric literally. If Angle doesn’t want to take any responsibility (and she, like Sarah, has denied any culpability) when people act on her words, then she shouldn’t say them. As for Palin, her language was not as direct as Angle’s, but she thrives on using tough words and projecting a tough image nonetheless: “don’t retreat, reload,” “Mama Grizzly,” being filmed hunting, etc. Words have consequences, and once they’re out in the open, we have little control over how they are interpreted or applied. It’s not a bad idea to remember that, especially if one has a wide audience.

    Your idea of repealing the second amendment is interesting, SI, but we all know it won’t happen in our lifetimes. I have no problem with people owning and using guns, but they should be subject to appropriate regulations, just as my ownership and operation of cars is subject to appropriate regulation. There is no good reason why anyone needs a high-capacity clip for a Glock (I’m not sure they need a Glock, either, but maybe it’s a decent shooting range gun – I certainly wouldn’t know). One would think that sort of regulation would be uncontroversial, but, of course, it’s not. I think it’s pathetic that the assassination of a judge and the maiming of a congresswoman are insufficient justification for even suggesting renewal of a conversation about firearms regulation.

    • she’s the victim of blood libel

      Apparently she doesn’t even know what that means.

      Or maybe she does. As one commenter over on Pharyngula said:

      The term “blood libel” is not meant for us. It is red meat for the apocalyptic christians who believe that they are the new chosen people. It is for her base. It is reassurance that while a Jewish member of the House was targeted for assassination and six people were murdered, the real victims are Palin and her base.

  4. Sorry people but you guys are fucked. Your culture is so violent and there are so many guns already out there that it is pretty much impossible to stop these semi frequent outbursts of nuttiness. It is so much deeper than “gun responsibility”.

    • I’m not sure how it goes out in Namby-Pamby land, but here’s a simple rule of thumb for understanding Americans. You can’t tell us we can’t have something. Booze, drugs, porn, guns, it doesn’t matter.

      Here’s another one. Americans generally think they’re not just better than non-Americans, but better than other Americans as well. This exceptionalism then allows for everything from discrimination to considering Welfare as charity for lazy people.

      So in light of these facts, gun “control” strikes that first nerve and thus, nothing can get done. The trick is to appeal to the second factor, and make having a gun special, because every fucker wants to feel special. You know what helps make you special? If others can’t have what you have, and many will have no problem with helping to make sure others can’t have what they have (ie – segregation, anti same sex marriage, anti healthcare, etc) to safeguard their own specialness.

      A fool tries to change someone else to be who they want them to be, whereas a wise man takes advantage of how they are to get them to do what he wants.

      The secret to guns in America is switching from gun control to gun responsibility.

  5. The trick is to appeal to the second factor, and make having a gun special….

    The secret to guns in America is switching from gun control to gun responsibility.

    A third characteristic of Americans is that we’re lazy, so appealing to “gun responsibility” won’t work. One way to appeal to American exceptionalism is to switch from “gun rights” to “gun privileges.” Privileges, by definition, are reserved only for those who are special. The problem with the “privilege” idea is that Americans feel that our exceptionalism is both a right and a privilege – we have the right to be more privileged than the rest of the world. And one of the signs of our privilege is the right to own guns – says so in dat dar Constitution y’all keep yappin’ ’bout.

  6. Appealing to gun responsibility will work because the incentive is being special, and everyone wants to be special. If it can be conveyed that gun rights means everybody, including those people, can have guns then the tune will change. This article from Salon mentions gun responsibility but uses another tactic to exploit that ‘specialness at the expense of others’ sentiment, economics.

    Divide and & conquer. As long as the Right can frame this as the People vs government, then forget about it. If you can reframe it to “Real Americans” vs those people, then you can move forward.

    • Philly, this makes so much sense, it seems like a no-brainer.

      But the cat’s out of the bag now. It would take a real evolutionary process to transform gun control into gun responsibility, something on the lines of a generation, at least. Everyone from our generation will never be able to get gun control out of our heads.

      • It would take a real evolutionary process to transform gun control into gun responsibility….

        Another instance in which the right framed the argument by controlling the terminology. If the left wants to shift from defense to offense, and actually get in position to score points, it has to learn the arts of coining the phrases and controlling the language of policy discussions. The right consistently outmaneuvers the left in this regard.

    • As long as the Right can frame this as the People vs government, then forget about it. If you can reframe it to “Real Americans” vs those people, then you can move forward.

      You’re advocating exploiting (thereby subtly reinforcing -even if inadvertently) prejudices in order to gain a greater good. This is “ends justifies the means” thinking that you usually rail against vociferously.

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