People have specifically focused on Sarah Palin's map, featured on her website with cross hairs placed over the districts of Democratic congress members who voted for health care reform, Ms. Giffords included. When Palin posted the image back in March, she included the message: "Commonsense Conservatives and lovers of America: Don't retreat, instead RELOAD!" It is indeed a terrorizing image, one that induces fear and repulsion at the sight of it. It is insolent, small-minded, and exactly what is wrong with our status quo.
Sarah Palin is a lost cause. But whether she is culpable for the shootings in Arizona is inscrutable; it's a bit unfair to say that she is directly responsible for such a deliberate attack. However, she IS a central figure in our mainstream political circus, and her words have a significant resonance with those who hear them, as do the words of all of our leaders. I'm glad that this tragedy in Arizona has brought to light the great casualness with which we treat violence and violent rhetoric, of all things.
It is sad that it takes something so terrible happening in order for people to realize their mistakes, but perhaps this examination of the way we use our language, and the damage we can inflict with mere words, will have a real and powerful effect on our nation's leaders. And maybe this time they'll retreat, instead of reloading to fire another round of hateful speech. Because I think we all would rather live in a world that values peace and understanding, not violence.