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Time to reconsider political messages

Immediately after Jared Loughner opened-fire at Arizona Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event on Jan. 8, killing six. The media was quick to point to violent right-wing rhetoric as the motivation.

Sarah Palin was criticized for a map posted on her website during the 2010 campaign that put rifle crosshairs on Rep. Giffords’ district. Palin drew attention to the map on Twitter, saying “Don’t Retreat, Instead — RELOAD!”

The story is still emerging, but as of right now it looks as if Loughner was more influenced by mental issues than conservative pundits. Nonetheless, the tragedy provides an opportunity to reassess the language used by our public figures.

The increasing allusions to firearms by politicians is a worrying trend. This language may lead to actual attacks on politicians. Even if such attacks don’t transpire, however, the effect of people like Nevada Senatorial candidate Sharon Angle endorsing “Second Amendment remedies” is that of intimidation.

These implicitly violent messages are especially egregious when the topic discussed has nothing to do with guns. Minnesota Congresswoman (and possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate) Michele Bachmann wanted citizens “armed and dangerous” in opposition to climate legislation. Politicians need to understand that language, however figurative its intent, has consequences.

Most troubling in hindsight is the event Giffords’ Tea Party challenger Jesse Kelly held last June. The event description read “Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”

Such intimidation has no place in a democracy, and therefore coupling violence with political messages is unpatriotic at the most basic level.

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