I learned a while ago that political commentary doesn’t sell books. I have avoided getting into political discussions with fans at cons, and at public events like book signings for just that reason.
I would have expected that no sane person would have felt anything but anger and revulsion at the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday. Based on what has been written of his weird rants on YouTube and elsewhere, it’s pretty clear that he was a few tacos short of a combination plate; just the sort of person who shouldn’t be heavily armed.
Much has been made of the target cross-hairs placed on Rep. Giffords by former Governor Sarah Palin’s conservative campaign. The graphic that so inflames certain parts of the political spectrum (and, to be fair, inflamed it long before January 8) could possibly have affected Loughner’s vicious and unwarranted attack, I suppose; but I think he was deranged anyway, without Ms. Palin’s help or inspiration. His rants are protected by the First Amendment, as was the visual presentation of targets on the 20 Congressmen Ms. Palin wanted to be defeated in the recent election. I don’t intend to blame his violent acts on the latter. Doing so, or trying to more narrowly define what constitutes free speech in this country, will only exacerbate an already vitriolic debate. Nazis and the KKK are protected too. Doesn’t mean we have to like it.
There’s only one group that seems to be pleased with the event: the Westboro Baptist Church. I refuse to provide a link to this vile group’s web site, but if you have the stomach for it, you can watch their official reaction, in which they suggest that this event is some sort of response to attacks made upon them. They’ll be protesting the funerals of the victims of this senseless crime, in their usual appalling and tasteless way. Nothing said about them, or addressed to them, will change their minds or their tactics. Depriving them of First Amendment rights won’t do it either – it will simply make free speech less free.
The only thing to do is to turn our backs on them. Again and again.
Regardless of party affiliation or political persuasion, we should all mourn for the victims and hope and/or pray for a recovery by Congresswoman Giffords and the other wounded survivors. The family of a small girl should know that we share their grief, even from afar. So should Ms. Giffords’ family.
And that we turn our back on Fred Phelps and his hideous hate-mongering. If you believe in divine judgment, and your concept of God is anything like mine, he’s in for a most unpleasant surprise when he finally shuffles off the mortal coil.
UPDATE JANUARY 11: The Arizona Legislature has passed a bill to prevent such protests. Hopefully that will at least provide some solace to the families, particularly the family of the nine-year-old girl, at which these vicious people rejoice.
Rhetoric didn’t kill the little girl or kill or hurt the other victims. Neither did Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin or President Bush or a lack of niceness or a lack of gun control. A lunatic did this. And it appears he was fixated on Congresswoman Giffords as early as 2007. I am appalled at the way this is being used for political advantage.