Word out of Washington is that the Republicans and their mouthpieces at Fox News will heed our own Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s call to tone down the rhetoric in light of the Tucson massacre.
So there’s one good thing to come out of this tragedy, though don’t count on civility lasting long on either side of the aisle.
Still, I would agree with Cleaver’s fellow Missourian, Rush Limbaugh, that we’ve yet to see any proof that heated political speech led to the rampage that killed six and critically wounded the congresswoman.
Might have, but so far the dots don’t connect, and those saying otherwise are overreaching.
That’s not to say that angry discourse is without power to propel sick people to evil acts. For me, the 2009 murder of abortion provider George Tiller proved that conclusively.
Barely an hour after learning that some nut from Kansas City had put a bullet in Tiller’s head, I posted a column blaming the crime, in part, on the angry rhetoric of the anti-abortion movement.
Many accused me of rushing to judgment. But I was right.
At trial, the shooter testified that he saw himself as committing justifiable homicide. He believed Tiller was a murderer, a view put forth over and over again by many in the right-to-life movement and commentators who repeatedly referred to the Wichita provider of late-term abortions as “Tiller the killer.”
I still say that Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, anti-abortion zealot Randall Terry, and even more mainstream right-to-lifers have blood on their hands.
The Tucson massacre is different. You simply cannot make a case that there’s a direct connection between our heated political rhetoric and the tragedy that took place last weekend at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ meet-and-greet with constituents.
An indirect one, maybe. No one can honestly deny that we live in a free society where guns are all too readily available, where too many people with severe mental problems go untreated, and where our national political debate is more of a shouting match than reasoned discussion.
Yet how many times have we had that discussion since John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession rolled down Pennsylvania Avenue nearly a half-century ago?
Or since Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were gunned down in ’68? Or since two nuts with guns separately tried to assassinate Presidents Ford and Reagan?
Or after Columbine, the slaughter at Virginia Tech, and on and on?
It’s always the same. There’s the catharsis that comes immediately after the news breaks, followed by the finger pointing, followed by the calls for actions that lead to nothing much if anything.
We move on until the next time, when the pattern repeats itself all over again.