The gun attack against Gabrielle Giffords -- a sea change in American politics?

9. 1. 2011 / Greg Evans

It was at a Labor Day picnic and political rally in 2006 that I met Gabrielle Giffords, when she was first campaigning for the U.S. House of Representatives. She seemed a pleasant, attractive, and intelligent woman, and it wasn't hard to see that she had a real political future in front of her. In the four years since she's been elected, she has been an effective, middle-of-the-road Democrat. And now she is lying in a hospital with a severe head wound, fighting for her life after being shot by a gunman at a small gathering where she was meeting and talking with her constituents. Nineteen people in total were shot at that get-together, and six of them were killed. This is, of course, a shock for everybody here. But such is the political climate in Arizona, and the United States, that it is more the shock of something finally happening that had long been expected, as opposed to the shock of such political violence actually happening.

At that same picnic where I met Giffords a right wing "activist" stood just outside the official boundary of the event, shouting out slurs against Mexican-Americans, immigrants, Democrats, and the "federalist" policies of the government. Even more remarkably, he was carrying a semi-automatic pistol (the type of gun used by the gunman yesterday) and had a clear line of sight to the speaker's podium. And yet, there was no way to remove him from the scene, even though several important politicians, including the Democratic governor of the state, spoke in the course of the day. In addition, both she and other progressive congressperson in this part of Arizona, Raul Grijalva, have been constantly threatened and their offices attacked. The windows of Gifford's office, for example, were shot out when she voted for Obama's healthcare reform plan. And yet, in the course of my strange little life that alternates between Arizona and the Czech Republic (and in spite of America's bizarre and lax gun control laws) up until today I had been more alarmed by the orchestrated, right-wing political violence going on in the Czech Republic than that which was going on in Arizona--especially the bizarre egg throwing incident at Anděl against Jiří Paroubek and the physical assault against Bohuslav Sobotka in Brno.

But, as Arizona's beautiful, young congresswoman lies in a hospital fighting for her life and six other people lay dead, including the chief Federal Judge for Arizona, we should remember that a virulent, vile right-wing press (whether it be Czech, American, or any other nationality you care to name) intentionally inspires lunatics to acts of violence with the intention of creating a climate of fear and intimidation. I know that in my current state--saddened, sickened and traumatized by what has happened here---I can't be particularly objective on this issue, but I can't help feeling that things might have just been escalated to the next level.


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