As I’ve said before, it’s quite clear that the responsibility for the shootings in Tucson this weekend lays at the feet of the shooter, though if he is indeed paranoid schizophrenic, I’d argue even he doesn’t bear any real responsibility and should just spend the rest of his life in a mental institution. But there are those who are ready to blame the Tea Party/Sarah Palin/Liberals/Fox News/Obama/[insert favorite political cause here]. Now I’m not prepared to blame any of them, even the Tea Party people, but I do think they bear some responsibility for contributing to the problem.
How? By nurturing a climate of hate, fear and distrust. By fanning the flames of violence. By using violent images in their campaigns. By, as one of my uncles put it, fertilizing the field and then acting shocked – SHOCKED! – that their garden grew some weeds. Doing things like claiming the government isn’t legitimate, that the President isn’t legitimate, that health care reform will lead to “death panels”, putting cross-hairs on political opponents and opposing even the most basic, reasonable forms of gun control, the right wing in general and the Tea Party in particular does bear some responsibility for making it much, much easier for something like this to happen.
Here’s how Slate.com put it:
First you rile up psychotics with inflammatory language about tyranny, betrayal, and taking back the country. Then you make easy for them to get guns. But if you really want trouble, you should also make it hard for them to get treatment for mental illness. I don’t know if Loughner had health insurance, but he falls into a pool of people who often go uninsured—not young enough to be covered by parents (until the health-care bill’s coverage of twentysomethings kicked in a few months ago), not old enough for Medicare, not poor enough for Medicaid. If such a person happens to have a history of mental illness, he will be effectively uninsurable. To get treatment, he actually has to commit a crime. If Republicans succeed in repealing the Obama health care bill, that’s how it will remain.
I think that there’s some legitimacy to this position. I think that the right wing in general, and again, the Tea Party in particular, really, really need to stop spewing the kind of violent language they spew in order to make their points. If they can’t get elected without resorting to violent arguments, then perhaps their positions aren’t anything that’s worth supporting at all.