by Michael Winship
Jan. 10, 2011
The Russian playwright Anton Chekhov had a rule: if you show a gun in the first act, by the time the curtain falls, it has to go off. For weeks and months, that gun, the weapon of angry rhetoric and intemperate rabblerousing, has been cocked and loaded in plain view on the American stage; Saturday morning outside a shopping mall in Tucson, Arizona, it went off again and again and again.
The target, Gabrielle Giffords, a member of the United States Congress, lays critically wounded, one of thirteen shot and still alive. Six others are dead, including a respected Federal judge who happened to be there but who previously had received death threats from anti-immigration extremists, a member of Congresswoman Giffords’ staff and a nine-year old girl, Christina-Taylor Green. Just elected to her school’s student council, she had been brought by a neighbor to Congresswoman Gifford’s constituent event so she could see how grown-ups put democracy into action.
Instead, this child – born on 9/11 — became just one of the latest victims of more political violence in America, violence fueled by an incoherent rage against government and elected officials who cannot instantly bring back prosperity and the jobs lost overseas or restore in a blink some idealized vision of a nation that might once have been but is no more. And all of it egged on by right wing leaders and their cronies lurking in the swampier reaches of the Internet, hate radio and television