Each airport on our trip home in early January had a television every 25 yards or so blaring non-stop news coverage. Facing massive weather delays, my husband and I sat for hours next to one of these in Atlanta anxiously waiting to hear if the airport had opened so we could get home. Mostly, though, all we got were constant updates regarding the tragic shootings in Tucson. Well, not so much updates as the same bits of news over and over, with the occasional “new” tidbit of interest (e.g., the shooter’s high school yearbook photo). One tidbit, however, saw me raise two fuming eyes from my Kindle in a characteristic huff.
We had made it out of Atlanta; it was around 5:30am in Boston Logan International and I was enjoying a bagel while waiting out yet another delay unable to escape the news from Tucson. Breaking news! Apparently, some staffer had just discovered that Sarah Palin had put the injured Congresswoman’s district in crosshairs as part of a political campaign last year. The inevitable flurry of pundits to follow were quite unanimous in their shock – at first, noting only the irony but then slowly devolving into vituperative excoriation (particularly after someone tracked down an eerily prescient quote by Rep. Giffords responding to the crosshairs campaign: “[W]hen people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action.”).
As commentators rained a flood of for-shame down on Sarah and her choice of metaphors, I couldn’t help but wonder: where was this judgmental vitriol when George Tiller was murdered? Or how about David Gunn? George Patterson? John Britton? These physicians were all shot dead following the circulation by anti-abortionist protestors of “Wanted” posters with their names and contact info. Sure, there was some coverage. I remember a pretty great article from the U.K. noting the (arguably more obvious) poster-to-shooting connections. In the U.S., however, I distinctly remember more “balanced” discussion than critical lambasting. Even though the same “creating a climate of violence” argument is being used here. Even though, years before Dr. Tiller was shot, a federal court had found “Wanted” posters like those circulated before his murder to be a true threat (and not the free speech Sarah’s camp more successfully touted). Even though Sarah immediately pulled her website, but protestors are still circulating “Wanted” posters.
I am not trying to jump on the critical bandwagon here, or take sides in the crosshairs controversy. I’m just thinking about how much I would have loved to sit in an airport, eat a bagel, and watch even one conservative think tank shake a disapproving talking head at the tragic events instigated by those “Wanted” posters.
Note: I started writing this post a few days ago in an indignant storm that has since been tempered by a bit of perspective. Driving to dinner the other night, I heard the Egyptian government had blocked communication networks as a response to political protests. Social media, photo postings, cell phones, blogs – all silenced. So though I vehemently wag my finger at those who wish to use the media to advance an agenda bordering on amoral solicitation, and which has long passed any meaningful political discourse, I wish to point out that I would not have them silenced. Unless, of course, that is, they decide to shut the hell up. That’s fine.