Fifty years ago in the Deep South no decent person could deny the connection between heated political rhetoric and targeted violence. (The photo is of Alabama's angry-talking then-Gov. George Wallace.) At the Facing South web site Chris Kromm writes:
The tragic Arizona shootings that left six dead and others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) critically wounded, have sparked debate over an important question: What's the connection between violent political rhetoric and real violence? It's not a new debate, especially in the South, where the bloody civil rights era forced Southerners and the nation to confront how extremist and violent political messages can have deadly results.To read the entire piece, "Do violent words cause violence?" which is short, timely and worthwhile, click here.
Still, it's probably a waste of time to try to make sense of the senseless actions of a person utterly detached from the concerns of morality and self interest that restrain most of us from shooting our elected representatives. It looks like that's the sort of person we have in this case. Time may prove different.
But if I'm right about him, our frustration with understanding the thinking of the Glock-wielding Arizona shooter is unlikely to go away. After all, we can only guess at his motives, because there's really no reason to believe anything he says. It isn't likely to do him much good to tell the truth ... if he knows it.
So partisans trying to game this tragedy might as well give up trying to find clues to his ideology. But trying to backpedal and say that dangerous words uttered by leaders don't sometimes lead to mayhem is ignoring history. We Southerners know better.