The lessons we must learn from the Giffords shooting

As Eesha pointed out yesterday, Representative Gabby Giffords announced that she would step down in a moving video. This, of course, was just over a year after being shot, along with 11 others, six of whom died, by a man should never have had access to a gun. It was also nearly two years after Sarah Palin put Giffords in her crosshairs, “targeting” her for having voted for Obama’s healthcare plan.

And props to Eesha for alluding to how toxic gun-toting language, celebrated by so many on the right, contributes to tragic acts of violence such as these. Giffords, herself, warned, prophetically, that people

need to realize that the rhetoric and firing people up and, you know, even things, for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list. But the thing is that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district.When people do that, they’ve gotta realize there’s consequences to that action.

Sadly, the media has been reluctant to analyze, in any real way, the issues that led up to the shooting. Perhaps they are afraid to politicize personal tragedy. But to ignore the policies and politics that led to the shooting is not only irresponsible, but trivializes the deaths and the injuries sustained by the survivors. A real media critique of the context in which the shooting happened could raise consciousness, impact legislation, and literally save lives– and would could be more personal and honorable than that?

Enter, as always, Amy Goodman and DemocracyNow!, who restore my faith in responsible journalism. I really recommend that everyone moved (as they should be) by the shooting watch the segment aired on January 9th, the one-year anniversary of the Tucson shooting. If we organize around the issues of gun violence, the deaths, suffering and trauma, will not be in vain.


Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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  • Stewart

    Everyone, but especially politicians, need to back up on the vitriol, which I think is the real source of the violence here. It’s democracy, not a war! American democracy has never been particularly respectful; for example, the mudslinging during the 1828 campaign was so personal and low that Andrew Jackson’s opponents accused his wife Rachel of bigamy, something she and Andrew had long resolved and put behind them. Jackson even blamed her death just before his inauguration on the attack. But attack ads and rallying cries are one thing. Sarah Palin’s ad was another. The worst thing is, her’s is an all too common mistake: comparing politics to warfare. The candidates “battle” and “fight” over states and votes. It’s a very natural analogy for our two-party democracy, but in an age where information is shared so rapidly to so many people, such rhetoric needs to be toned down a notch. Instead, politicians and an increasingly large number of Americans have stepped up such language. It’s as if there is a war for the heart of America going on, and our worst enemies are our fellow citizens.

    I know this comment won’t reach many conservatives, who are often particularly guilty of such behavior. My hope is that those who read my comment think about how much they are or are not guilty of turning discussion and debate into ideological warfare and take the higher road. No matter how wrong you think the other side is, don’t say hateful things about them and don’t target them as a person. Conservatives aren’t evil–perhaps misinformed, perhaps full of bull, perhaps what-have-you, but underneath our opinions of them, they really mean well. I’d like to propose this as a test for when we speak about our political opponents: If you think it possible that some unbalanced soul take your words too literally (God forbid!), then you’ve gone too far. Don’t do what Sarah Palin’s PAC did!

  • Taylor

    This happened in the Missouri legislator today. From Fired Up! Missouri:

    “Apparently earlier today, someone placed rifle scope stickers on the capitol doors of some democratic senators in Jefferson City.

    A year after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in the head and less than a week after a democratic operative came home to find his cat mutilated and killed on his doorstep, we now have someone in the capitol placing rifle scope stickers on the doors of democrats here in Missouri.”

  • Margo

    Sometimes I feel like people in Government office forget what a high, and respectable place they hold, and conduct themselves so unprofessionally it is apalling. The fact that a politician would use references to targeting, having people in their crosshairs, is inexcusable to me. Monday Newt referred to the President of the United States as a “Radical” and referred to his policies as “Dangerous” amongst other heavily charged rhetoric.
    I want the people who represent the people of this country to do so with a higher level of professionalism, intellect, and composure that is deserving of their public office. That means sitting down together and having discussions based on reason and rational thinking, rather than superstition and uncompromising partisanship. Exactly what Obama was saying in the State of The Union last night.