Words matter. In Arizona, the space between fingers on a computer keyboard and a deadly weapon suddenly collapses, killing six, including a nine-year-old girl and leaving a Congresswoman in surgery with a bullet in her head.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will hopefully recover, but how do Americans deal with the shock of waking up in Pakistan, where political assassination is an acceptable means of expression?
The Arizona gunmen leaves a trail of social media ranting against the government, which in days to come will no doubt be judged as evidence of insanity but, absent the shooting, would otherwise draw little attention as a reflection of the country’s political mood.
Is it irrelevant to point out that before her reelection, Rep. Giffords’ district was shown in the crosshairs of those Sarah Palin “targeted” for defeat? Perhaps, but as Palin now offers Facebook condolences to the victims and prayers for “peace and justice,” is it too much to ask her to tone down the gun rhetoric in offering political opinions?
As the President promises a full investigation of “this unspeakable act” with his State of the Union address approaching and the lip service across the political spectrum starts denouncing the mayhem, the Arizona victims would be well-served by a reminder of how deadly American discourse has become.
The attempted assassination of a respected Congresswoman whose astronaut husband is scheduled for a mission this spring is a vivid reminder that it may be more dangerous to venture into politics these days than into an unknown void.