The recent shooting spree against U.S. Democratic Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords of Arizona shocked the political world, a world already riddled with very little compromise and reliable uncertainty. Giffords has been heralded as a positive advocate for her constituents, a fighter who narrowly wins her district in a conservative-leaning state. When Giffords was shot in the head by a shooter described by both Republicans and Democrats as characteristically “unstable,” she was participating in what many news reports detailed as Giffords doing what she loved best, which is communicating with the public in a town hall style meeting.
Reaction to the shooting, although, will provide much insight as to how we define the relationship between Congressional members, as well as state and local leadership, and their constituents. Shaping that relationship will be mainstream and social media. The rate to which information is now passed around and consumed is tremendous. Several writers immediately jumped at the chance to exploit party lines after the Arizona shooting in an effort to place blame on the Tea Party and conservatives who oppose the controversial, national health care package. Giffords supported Obamacare.
According to The Washington Examiner, “In the hours after the attack, little was known about (Jared Lee) Loughner beyond some bizarre and largely incomprehensible YouTube postings that, if anything, suggested he was mentally ill. Yet the network (CNN) that had shown such caution in discussing the Ft. Hood shootings openly discussed the possibility that Loughner was inspired to violence by…Sarah Palin. Although there is no evidence that Loughner was in any way influenced by Palin, CNN was filled with speculation about the former Alaska governor.”
The Examiner article concludes, comparing the Loughner shooting to the Maj. Nidal Hasan Ft. Hood shooting spree that happened on Nov. 5, 2009: “Other media outlets were also filled with speculation about the attacks and the pronouncements on the state of American political rhetoric.”
Speculation pointed fingers to a target list of representatives who favored President Obama’s health care initiative that Palin had developed. The list was turned into a map that had crosshairs on the US districts where they represented. Palin’s graphic was just that, a graphic, not a literal hit list.
This action is tremendously saddening – six others, including a federal judge and nine-year old girl, were killed. Knowing that a person who sacrificed her life to advance what she thought was best for America and who continued to be fearless in spite of previous threats, is highly exemplary of Giffords’ willingness to fight for freedom.
The facts are a Congresswoman is in critical condition, six people were killed and it was an attack on liberty. Unfortunately, this type of attack is not new. As the 112th Congress is underway, new leadership is in place and the balance of power has changed in the state Legislature. Elected officials are working for the people; they are standing up for what they believe. This is neither a time for the public to stop standing up for what they want, nor representatives to back down from people who try to plant the seed of fear.
Constituents need to talk to their representation. Increasing federal and state security for every representative would be costly, costly in terms of a hefty price tag and decreasing communication vital to liberty.
Jana Benscoter is Managing Editor and Reporter at the Civitas Institute in Raleigh (nccivitas.org)