The Gabby Giffords Shooting and a Climbdown with Dignity

We grieve. Everyone. Thank god we still live in a country where there’s no argument over that.

This man is an american hero. I’m glad that American heroes are citizen-medics.

My thought is this:
As soon as we heard that Congresswoman Giffords was shot, many on the left immediately thought of right-wing violence. Memories of the attack on Tom Periello, the plane attack on the IRS, the Tiller murder, the attack on the holocaust museum lept straight to mind. Quickly, people swapped stories and pictures. Giffords’ Republican/Tea Party opponent shot AK-47’s with supporters to “remove Giffords from office”. There’s the now-infamous Sarah Palin target map.

People saw this coming. They remembered “don’t retreat, reload”. They remembered all that talk of 2nd amendment solutions. They remembered this.

This murder snapped people’s attention on a problem they’ve been worried about for years – rising rhetoric of violence and incitement to violence on the right. To quote Matthew Yglesias: “I think as of now we don’t know anything about the motives, if any, of the shooter but I hope people take something horrible like this as a reminder that we’ve seen a lot of overheated political rhetoric over the past couple of years.”

All that is lead-up to say this:

You gotta give people a way to climbdown with dignity. Yes, it’s frustrating that the media/the establishment is doing the false equivalence tango, pretending that “both sides” are to blame for an environment of calls to violence. You know that’s not true, I know that’s not true. But are you trying to be proven right, are you trying to score points against the right, or are you trying to get them to change their behavior? Basic human psychology shows us this: we need a collective agreement not to point fingers, so that the offenders don’t lash out and double down. It’s unsatisfying, but that’s how people work.

The wave of attention on Sarah Palin’s map causes her spokesman to stupidly double-down. Now she may be running on pure id, (and will never retreat, only reload, remember?) but that doesn’t mean that the basic human instinct to be defensive isn’t there in others. You make change by leaving people a dignified exit in the direction you want them to take. Otherwise they’ll just act cornered.


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