The nation stood still Monday morning as President Barack Obama led Americans in a moment of silence to honor the victims of the shooting rampage in Arizona. As we reflect on Saturday’s tragedy, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is fighting for her life. The shooting left 14 others injured, and six families preparing funerals.
The assault at a congressional town hall at Tucson shopping center parking lot has launched a national conversation on the increasing toxicity of political discourse. This is long overdue.
There’s much evidence that the shooter, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, was mentally unstable, and there could be any number of reasons that launched him on the trail to Saturday’s carnage. Let’s not rush to judgment about motives.
But we do know that the over-the-top political rhetoric has not been helpful to our democracy, and it’s only gotten worse in recent elections. Demonizing political opponents does not bring us together, and drives many people from participating in the process.
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik made that point on the day of the tragedy: “The vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business and what (we) see on TV and how our youngsters are being raised, that this has not become the nice United States of America that most of us grew up in. And I think it’s time that we do the soul-searching.”
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