It’s important not to overreact to the terrible shooting in Tucson: not make members of Congress less accessible to their constituents, not blame a political movement for a deranged act. In any case, the first order of business is to feel for the victims and their families.
But once the shock has worn off, it will be reasonable to consider the line of inquiry already being pursued by some liberals: namely, that the shooting of Representative Gifford and 18 others at a public gathering was a deadly manifestation of violent rhetoric on the Right.
America is a nation birthed and bathed in violence. Settled by Europeans in the age of firearms, until relatively recently boasting a wild frontier, and hostile to the kind of deference to and centralization of authority that has allowed other Western governments to better control the instruments and sentiments of deadly force, the United States has frequently suffered the consequences of this particular expression of its freedom.
While the extreme Left has known sporadic episodes of political violence (John Brown’s pre-Civil War insurrection, anarchists of the early 20th Century, revolutionaries of the 1960s), it is the extreme Right-- defending the founding credo-- that has consistently relied on personal deadly force to make its points.
After the Oklahoma City federal building explosion in 1995-- the victims of which included children in a day care center-- the leaders of the newly ascendant radical Republicans in Congress ceased to refer to themselves proudly as “bomb throwers.” With one of the mortal victims of the Tucson rampage being a nine-year-old girl, perhaps the current leaders of the Right will use the most recent tragedy as an opportunity to draw their inspiration from a less violent part of our nation’s legacy.