A European Eye On Tucson: Symptom Of Uniquely American Insanity
A German commentator says the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords is not about politics, but guns -- and security measures are about to crank up even higher
While Gabrielle Giffords clung to life after her surgery in a Tucson hospital, America's political leaders took to the cable news channels with the indignant rhetoric that typically follows such sensational acts of violence. In strange unanimity, President Barack Obama and Sarah Palin condemned the murders as "senseless." As if there could be a reasonable use of force against a member of the United States Congress.
Echoing President Obama's words, John Boehner, the new Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, declared that violent crimes "have no place in our society." Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, praised the "brilliant and courageous' Giffords, noting that she was gunned down while serving her constituents with "dedication and distinction." The overabundance of praise sounded embarrassingly much like an obituary. But after all, it is an American reflex to herald victims of senseless violence as heroes in the name of freedom.
Tucson's Sheriff was left to deplore the "poisonous rhetoric" of the country's political climate, especially in Arizona (home to radical anti-immigration laws), which he called a "Mecca for prejudice and hypocrisy." Sheriff Clarence Dupnik implied that the half-playful calls to violence and campaign slogans of the extreme political right (such as Palin's "Don't retreat, reload!") may actually cause disturbed individuals to become real offenders. When asked if his daughter has enemies, Giffords' badly shaken father replied, "Yes, the Tea Party."
There is not point in sifting through the reading list on the blog of the alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner, 22, to draw any conclusions: Loughner lists Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and Karl Marx's "Communist Manifesto" alongside Orwell, Hesse, Aesop and Plato as his favorites. On various Internet sites, the college dropout wrote confused, anti-government propaganda and claimed that schools were unconstitutional. He declared that the majority of citizens in Arizona's Eighth congressional district, which Giffords' represents are "illiterate - ridiculous."
On December 30, the gunman wrote: "With every concern, my shot is now ready for aim. The hunt, a mighty thought of mine." Superfluous as it must sound, we must now mention that the murder weapon, a nine-millimeter semi-automatic with an extended magazine, was acquired legally, according to initial findings. In Arizona, weapons may be carried openly in bars, churches and political rallies.
Every known criticism has been made of the estimated 200 million firearms that are currently in the hands of 300 million Americans, including infants and the elderly. But these criticisms seem to fall on deaf ears. There is a gentle, libidinous relationship between many Americans and their firearms. And the Second Amendment, which guarantees their right to bear arms, cannot be shaken. When citizens are encouraged to lead an armed rebellion against Washington at a Tea Party rally, it's just another day in America. All quiet on the Western Front, you might say.
Many of the same people that denounce the horrors of bloody crimes that can only claim so many victims through the use of automatic weapons hypocritically continue to defend Kalashnikovs as weapons for hunting deer. In Arizona, six people, including a judge and a nine-year-old girl, have been killed, and 14 lie seriously injured in hospitals. The offender may face the death penalty.
Unlike the leaders of both chambers, regular members of Congress enjoy no personal protection unless they receive concrete threats. These shootings will certainly spark a debate on whether public representatives should barricade themselves even further behind a wall of bodyguards. Thirty years ago, citizens were free to move about Capitol Hill to speak with their Washington representatives directly; it was a house of the people. Then, in 1983, a bomb exploded outside the entrance to the Senate and the security checks began.
Since 9/11, Congress has become a fortress surrounded by numerous rings of security. Now, the open public meetings and meet-and-greets such as the one Gifford organized in Tucson may be sacrificed for the new fear of assassination. Four U.S. presidents, most recently John F. Kennedy, have been assassinated by gunshot; Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan were shot and narrowly escaped. In the history of the United States, five members of Congress have died at the hands of assassins. Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968 was the most prominent victim, while Leon Ryan, who was killed in 1978 in Guyana, was the most recent to date.
John McCain, one Arizona's two senators, went farthest in his horrified condemnation of the shootings, stating, " Whoever did this; whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race, and they deserve and will receive the contempt of all decent people and the strongest punishment of the law."
Daniel Hernandez, who has only been on Giffords' team for five days, probably saved her life. The young intern, who is a trained paramedic, was standing about ten meters away when the shooting occurred. After seizing the fallen Gifford, he took her pulse and pressed his hand against her forehead, which he believed to be the site of the entrance wound. He pulled the congresswoman, who was quiet but conscious, into his lap, holding her head high so that she would not choke on the blood in her throat. He held this position until the paramedics arrived. Inside the ambulance, he softly squeezed her hand. Hernandez says Giffords squeezed it back.
Read the original article in German