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The Consequences of Words

Tom Degan: The extremism of 1963 was pretty much isolated to a few southern cities. Forty-eight years later it's gone national. What happened in Arizona over the weekend is only the beginning.

"Words have consequences." -Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords


Hey! That reminds me: Whatever happened to Sarah Palin? The old gal has been awfully quiet for a change. Have you noticed that?

Gail Collins put it perfectly in the title of her column in the New York Times Monday morning: "The Right To Bear Glocks?"

As of this hour, Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords clings to life after being shot during a scheduled meeting with her constituents on Saturday morning. The incident took place at a supermarket called, "Safeway". How ironic. At this moment she is in critical condition but is expected to survive. Keep your fingers crossed and your hands folded.

Six people were killed in the rampage, including Federal Judge John Roll, and a nine-year-old little girl named Christina Taylor-Green. Christina was there because she wanted to learn about government. She was born on September 11, 2001. I'm not making this up.

Within the last year-and-a-half, the extremist nitwits who now control the "party of Lincoln" have been kicking out the jams with their incendiary rhetoric: Michelle Bachmann telling an interviewer that she wanted the people of Minnesota "armed and dangerous" on the subject of taxes; Sharon Angle (Remember her?) talking about "second amendment remedies" with respect to politicians who dare to lean to the left. And how 'bout Larry Pratt - president of the Gun Owners of America? Here's a lovely little Prattism that was quoted in AlterNet this morning:

Remember Oklahoma City? Yeah, I do. And I also remember the Waco barbeque that your Attorney General gave us. Thanks a lot.... We're in a war. The other side knows they're at war, because they started it. They're comin' for our freedom, for our money, for our kids, for our property. They're comin' for everything because they're a bunch of socialists."

Wow! Medications, please. Here's another neat quote:

"Don't retreat....RELOAD!"

Who said that? I'll give you a hint: It was the same idiot who put up a map of the United States with the cross-hairs of a gun over Gabrielle Giffords' district. Isn't that nice?

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We know next to nothing about the assailant. The information that is available thus far is that he is loner and a malcontent named Jared Lee Loughner. (The "Lee" part of his name immediately gave me pause - as in "Harvey Oswald" - too weird!) He is obviously, extremely mentally ill. We know very little about his politics. Liberals are implying that he is a right winger. Conservatives are saying just the opposite. He did, however, list Mein Kamph as one of his favorite books - hardly your typical left-wing tome. Who can say what is really going through this confused and tormented mind. Of this there can be little doubt though: The language of violence and threats of physical intimidation that have littered America's political landscape in recent years must be viewed as a probable source.

jared loughner

One of the tragedies of history is the fact that Lee Oswald never had the chance to testify in his own defense. I'm not one of these people who believe that the man was some kind of patsy who was framed for killing President Kennedy. I have no doubt that he was the one (and the only one) who pulled the trigger of the Manila Carcana rifle that ended JFK's life. But I have a theory:

Oswald was an extreme left winger - the type of which no longer exists in this country: a committed Communist. I believe that had he been living in New York or Boston or Los Angeles - or even Atlanta - when the president rolled into town, he never would have attempted assassination. But he wasn't in any of those cities. He was living in Dallas, Texas. In November of 1963,Dallas was the bat-shit crazy, right wing capital of the nation. Just a few weeks before the Kennedy shooting, UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson had been physically attacked and spat on at an appearance in that city.

Lee Oswald's motive for killing John F. Kennedy was not fame and recognition. He wasn't John Hinkley or Mark David Chapman trying to add notoriety to a meaningless life. He vehemently denied having any part in the shooting.

lee harvey oswald


That was his story and he was sticking to it! It was a story he didn't have to stick to it for very long, though. Forty-eight hours after he was busted, a single bullet from Jack Ruby's gun forever silenced Lee Harvey Oswald. What could possibly have been his motive?

Here's my theory: He killed Kennedy because he really believed he could get away with it. On the day of the murder, the Dallas Morning News ran an ad that accused JFK of treason. They even posted two photographs of the president that were positioned to look like mug shots. Nice! The atmosphere in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963 was so politically toxic, Oswald must have assumed that the police and Secret Service would immediately focus on one or more of that city's illustrious right wing crackpots.

The extremism of 1963 was pretty much isolated to a few Southern cities. Forty-eight years later it's gone national. What happened in Arizona over the weekend is only the beginning. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but America's political discourse has been hijacked by half-wits and crazy people. Their spokespersons make their names by inflaming their clueless masses with the language of hate. That's their job. Then again, I'm not giving away any state secrets here, am I?

There is also this unfortunate truism that cannot be ignored: America has the dumbest gun laws in the western hemisphere. Until this nasty situation is remedied (Don't hold your breath) these sorts of massacres are the new reality. Get used to it. The NRA and Larry Pratt love to talk about "freedom". Let me explain something to you: A people who live in mortal terror contemplating when and where the next massacre of innocents will take place may be many things - no argument from me there - "Free" they are not. Let's just stop kidding ourselves here and now, okay?

Tom Degan

The Rant