You are what you pretend to be.

Having only just come across news of this morning’s Tucson shooting a couple hours ago, it’s still sinking in. My first reaction was a depressed feeling that was hard to put into words, so I did the natural thing and read all the news and opinions I could about it.

An excerpt from this article put my thoughts into words: “It wasn’t clear Saturday whether the alleged shooter in Tucson was motivated by any real political philosophy or by voices in his head, or perhaps by both. But it’s hard not to think he was at least partly influenced by a debate that often seems to conflate philosophical disagreement with some kind of political Armageddon.

Yes. The more I read about this Loughner character, the more I think he was an undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, rather than a focused, nutso conservative. But that’s only partially the important part… it’s clear from the reaction (and I know from my own) that when all of us read the news, we immediately connected it with the inflammatory and vitriolic nonsense that’s been spewed for many months now, as if we’re on the verge of an armed revolution. The Palin cross-hairs map and talks of who to “target,” the revolutionary imagery of “reloading” and “taking America back.” And who could forget the custom a few summers back of carrying loaded weapons to political events just to “prove a point”?

These words and actions cross from artful or apt metaphor into provocative metaphor when tossed about over biscuits and tea in the morning and repeated with feeling at press conferences. Just the mere fact of repetition makes it insidious. If politicians tell us often enough to “target” and “reload,” does it not follow that some of the less stable or more enraged among us will be moved to actually pull out a gun? People don’t realize there’s a revolution going on until they hear the word repeated over and over. Congressional office windows being shot out as a pattern points toward something like today’s shooting being simply a matter of revolutionary progress.

I would reiterate here that this kid from Tucson might not have been and likely wasn’t operating under Tea Party-esque motivations. More worrisome is the fact that we heard the news and all thought, “I had hoped it wouldn’t come to this but, well, yeah.” A political shooting in America shouldn’t have a logical antecedant, whether or not that logic proves to be true. This wasn’t initially puzzling, but disappointing. That’s when you know public discourse is getting out of hand.

Everyone will get and is getting political about this — the Dems will call out Palin without regard to the kid’s mental condition, the Republicans will highlight the kid’s craziness, call out the Dems and claim it’s anything to attack poor Sarah. But what I fear is that nobody will talk about what’s really important here, which is the seeming inevitability or likelihood of such an attack, based on what we’ve all absorbed of recent political vocabulary.

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