The Parallax View: the Gifford Shooting

As shocking as the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a number of other innocents was, there was a dull predictability to the aftermath which saw law enforcement looking for a (probably phantasmical) "second shooter" and progressives searching for Tea Party boogie-men. Even without that, however, this is still a disquieting moment:

A gunman targeted Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as she met with constituents outside a busy supermarket Saturday, wounding the Democrat and killing Arizona's chief federal judge and five others in an attack that left Americans questioning whether divisive politics had pushed the suspect over the edge.

The assassination attempt left the three-term congresswoman in critical condition after a bullet passed through her head. A shaken President Barack Obama called the attack "a tragedy for our entire country."

Giffords, 40, is a moderate Democrat who narrowly won re-election in November against a tea party candidate who sought to throw her from office over her support of the health care law. Anger over her position became violent at times, with her Tucson office vandalized after the House passed the overhaul last March and someone showing up at a recent gathering with a weapon.

Police say the shooter was in custody, and was identified by people familiar with the investigation as Jared Loughner, 22. U.S. officials who provided his name to the AP spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release it publicly.

His motivation was not immediately known, but Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described him as mentally unstable and possibly acting with an accomplice.

As the shooter was a declared admirer of the Communist Manifesto and had a thing for flag burning, I think it's safe to say that he's not a right winger. Still, just as there has been a rush to judgment against "us," there has also been rush to judge this guy as little more than crazy. Sorry, but this was an attempted political assassination by a guy who went through a certain amount of effort to position himself to do maximum damage. God knows why he would target an inoffensive moderate like Gifford. Then again, moderates often take it on the chin in immoderate times. Mr. Manifesto also managed to kill a federal judge, a 9-year old girl and three bystanders in their seventies. In ways both large and small, America really is under assault.

I'm not going to point to one person on the right or the left and say that their "rhetoric" caused this. But, I will say that the last 10 years have seen a mounting fury first on the Left against the supposed war crimes of George Bush and then on the Right (and among many independents) who suddenly saw the country veer crazily from a financial crisis to a pell mell socialization of the banking, automotive and health care industries. And now, we have a resurgent Republican Party that is taking on to itself the task of dismantling at least a portion of the sprawling federal government, something you can expect will be fought tooth and nail by the people who earn their livelihoods from it.

We can only hope that violence remains a matter of rhetoric and hyperbole, but after today, I can only say: let's be careful out there.

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