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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

We must all accept our personal responsibility

Last Saturday, 22-year-old Jared Loughner opened fire at a political event held outside a local shopping center, killing six. Among the critically injured was Gabrielle Giffords, the representative of Arizona’s 8th Congressional District.

In the wake of this tragedy, bloggers, talking heads and pundits of both sides of the political spectrum were eager to assign blame. In a blog post titled “”An Assassination,”” Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic accused the Arizona Daily Wildcat of contributing to the toxic political discourse that may have pushed Loughner over the edge.

Sullivan said that while reading the column “”Palin reloads, aims for Giffords,”” which was published in the Wildcat last September, the blood drained from his face. He then asked the editor to “”pause before enabling forces whose capacity for violence is real.””

Sullivan’s criticisms, though well-intentioned, are sadly misguided. The column he cites does not advocate violence nor is it suggestive in any way. Furthermore, the language used in the column’s title belonged to Palin, who tweeted this message to her followers in the aftermath of the Dr. Laura controversy: “”Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: ‘Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!'”” On her “”Take Back the 20″” campaign map, there were cross-hairs “”aimed”” at Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. Palin used this imagery and rhetoric to encourage her followers to take action against Democratic lawmakers.

The silver lining in last week’s tragedy is the shining light on the toxicity of the political discourse in this country. It has taught us that our words can have consequences.

Incendiary political rhetoric in this country must be dialed down. Representative Giffords believed this herself. The night before the shooting, Giffords sent an email to her close friend, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, calling for centrism, moderation and temperance.

With that said, there is no evidence indicating Loughner was or was not influenced by political discourse. Politicians and pundits have only theorized about it.

It behooves us all to heed Gabby’s advice in the wake of this tragedy, but senseless finger-pointing does not achieve this. If anything, it absolves Loughner of the guilt he deserves. No one person, or newspaper op-ed, is responsible for the current political climate. Furthermore, over-the-top political speech isn’t just coming from right-wing demagogues; it’s coming from the left as well.

What we must understand is the difference between influencing a crime and committing one. What Sarah Palin has had to endure for the past week is unfair. Yes, her loaded and ambiguous language could sway the gullible, but to treat her with the same contempt you would a cold-blooded killer is absurd.

Regardless of who or what may have motivated him, Loughner is solely responsible for pulling the trigger of that Glock 19 semiautomatic pistol.

— Nyles Kendall is a political science junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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