During the 2010 midterm elections, Republican senate nominee Sharron Angle of Nevada said that "if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies."
Lest her reference be too subtle for dummies, she immediately added, "I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."
In March 2009, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) said she wanted the residents of her state "armed and dangerous" over President Obama's plan to reduce global warming through cap and trade legislation.
And who can forget Sarah Palin's U.S. map of targeted Democratic congressional districts that used rifle crosshairs? ("Don't retreat...reload!")
Which brings us to Tucson, Arizona, January 8, 2011. One of Sister Sarah's crosshairs hovered over the congressional district of Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, shot with others (including a federal judge, who died) at point blank range while holding a mid-morning, open-air town hall with constituents in a grocery store parking lot. Giffords barely beat a Tea Party-backed Republican to win reelection last November.
Words and imagery have meaning. The far Right increasingly makes use of these dangerous examples to get their most rabid supporters foaming at the mouth. Make no mistake: these politicians do it because it works. At the least it might win a nomination, and often enough a general election.
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter that the Arizona shooter is deranged. That goes without saying. But elected officials and candidates who engage in such provocative fan-flaming are planting seeds that encourage gun violence, and anyone with half a brain knows it.
It's time for the Sharron Angle's of this world, and her fellow travelers, to "man up."
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