In today’s Guardian Michael Tomasky has written the following article about the murder of six people and attempted murder of many others, including Congresswoman Giffords: In the US, where hate rules at the ballot box, this tragedy has been coming for a long time. Some selected extracts:
… You don’t have to believe that alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is a card-carrying Tea Party member (he evidently is not) to see some kind of connection between that violent rhetoric and what happened in Arizona on Saturday.
… So what particular type of nut is Loughner? We don’t have a full picture yet. But we have enough of one. His coherent ravings included the conviction that the constitution assured him that “you don’t have to accept the federalist laws”. He called a female classmate who had an abortion a “terrorist”.
In sum, he had political ideas, which not everyone does. Many of them (not all, but most) were right wing. He went to considerable expense and trouble to shoot a high-profile Democrat, at point-blank range right through the brain. What else does one need to know? For anyone to attempt to insist that the violent rhetoric so regularly heard in this country had no likely effect on this young man is to enshroud oneself in dishonesty and denial.
I would like to report to you that my nation is in shock, and that we will work together to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. Alas, neither of these things is close to true. Of course an event like this is hard to believe in the moment; but in the context of our times, it’s really not surprising at all. Last summer, a California man armed himself and set off for San Francisco with the express intent of killing liberals at a nonprofit foundation that had been pilloried by Glenn Beck and others. Only the lucky accident of his arrest en route for drunk driving prevented the mayhem then.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has documented more than two dozen killings by or arrests of rightwing extremists who intended to do serious political violence since 2008. One Tennessee man killed two worshippers at a liberal church, regretting only that he had not been able to ice the 100 liberals named by author Bernard Goldberg as those most responsible for destroying America. Giffords herself received threats after voting for the healthcare reform bill, and shots were fired through the window of her district office. An event like this has been coming for a long time.
In contrast, here is the article that Michael Tomasky wrote when Major Nidal Hasan murdered thirteen people and attempted to murder many others: American, for better or worse. Some selected extracts:
We have much more to learn about Hasan before we can jump to any conclusions. A New York Times profile of him from yesterday notes that this army psychiatrist, who’d presumably heard many blood-curdling war stories, obsessively feared being sent over to Iraq or Afghanistan. But it then says that the FBI has monitored some internet postings by a certain Nidal Hasan that spoke positively of suicide bombers, comparing them to soldiers who risk their lives for their comrades. The Times didn’t know if it was the same Nidal Hasan.
For all most Americans know about Palestinian culture, Nidal Hasan could be as common a name as Dave Johnson. The Palestinian is an unknown person in the US. Jews are a part of the country and have been for decades, but average Americans pretty much know Palestinians only as suicide bombers. Sadly, for some Americans this event will reinforce an image of a people who resort first to mindless violence.
We should assume until it’s proven otherwise that Hasan was an American and a loyal one, who just snapped, as Americans of all ethnicities and backgrounds and political persuasions do. And, as is so rarely the case in these situations, he’s alive, so we’ll have a chance to hear him express his views some day.