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Slide Show: The Attack on Arizona's Gabrielle Giffords | The Nation

Slide Show: The Attack on Arizona's Gabrielle Giffords

  • Emergency personnel in Tucson where Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others were shot Saturday (1 of 8)

    This Saturday, a gunman, identified by the press as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, walked up to the parking lot of a Tucson supermarket and shot US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and shot and killed as many as six other people, including a 9-year-old girl and federal judge John Roll. “But he did so much more than that,” writes The Nation’s Richard Kim. “When he pulled the trigger on his semiautomatic pistol, he also attacked American government, the American public and its right to assemble peacefully and without fear—and consequently his assault was also an assault on American democracy.”

     

    Credit: AP Images

  • Gabrielle Giffords (2 of 8)

    As John Nichols reports, Giffords, a moderate Democrat narrowly reelected in last year’s midterms, stirred the wrath of right-wingers with her vote for healthcare reform and her opposition to the controversial SB1070 immigration bill. During the 2010 campaign season, Sarah Palin targeted Giffords’s district on a map that used gunsights to identify Democrats the former Alaska governor was urging her followers to "reload" against and defeat. In response, Giffords said: "We are on Sarah Palin's targeted list. The way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of the gunsight over our district. When people do that, they have got to realize there are consequences to that action."

  • Along Arizona‚Äôs border with Mexico (3 of 8)

    The attack on Giffords this weekend coincides with a disturbing rise in right-wing militancy, well documented by watchdog groups and government agencies. In 2009 the Department of Homeland Security found that "Rightwing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda." And as The Nation’s Ari Berman explains, “Few places in recent years have combined a more lethal mix of nativism, gun culture and religious right sentiment than Arizona.”

     

    Credit: AP Images

     

  • A 2006 high school yearbook photo of Jared Lee Loughner (4 of 8)

    Loughner, Giffords’s alleged attacker, posted videos ranting against immigrants and the government and appears to have been obsessed with the teachings of David Wynn Miller, an anti-government and anti-tax conspiracy theorist.

     

    The Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch blog details instances of Loughner's writings echoing the language of "the antigovernment 'Patriot' movement that produced so much violence in the 1990s." 

     

    Credit: Reuters Pictures

  • Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik speaks during a news conference after the shooting (5 of 8)

    While Loughner's political statements, Nichols argues, came in the context of broader rants—and a personal history—that clearly suggested he was unstable, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik observed that "when you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain people's mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I believe has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

     

    Credit: Reuters Pictures

  • President Obama speaking at a White House press conference, January 8 (6 of 8)

    A shaken President Obama described the shooting spree as "a tragedy for Arizona and a tragedy for our country," and dispatched the director of the FBI to Arizona to help coordinate the investigation. The president huddled throughout the day with top security officials and made numerous calls to key Democratic and Republican congressional leaders regarding the incident, which led House leaders to delay a planned vote on healthcare repeal and other issues that had been scheduled for this week.

     

    Credit: Reuters Pictures

     

  • A flag flies at half-mast outside the Phoenix courthouse where Loughner appeared Monday (7 of 8)

    For The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel, Loughner's act was "an assassination of democracy, an armed assault on citizens gathered to exercise the most precious of American rights—the right to free speech and assembly." After Loughner made his first appearance before a federal court in Phoenix Monday, vanden Heuvel argues that, "Nothing is more corrosive to democracy than the use of violence to terrorize the public square, to shut down speech, to slay those seeking its exercise."

     

    But in a culture awash in violence, in which poverty is spreading and mental illness gets too little treatment, the underlying causes of violent acts threatening to poison our democracy demand closer examination: "the violent imagery at Palin's Web site should be of less concern than the real cross hairs of guns readily available across the land," vanden Heuvel argues; "the vitriol of politics of less concern than the shrinking opportunities in our economy; the passions of partisans less dangerous than the absence of help for the mentally unstable among us."

     

    Credit: AP Images

  • A memorial outside the hospital where Giffords and other victims of Saturday's shootings are recovering (8 of 8)

    “The bloodbath in Arizona,” Kai Wright argues, “should give us pause about the enemy-in-our-midst perspective from which the right has both politicked and governed for decades.” The right’s anti-government rhetoric has gutted social services, allowed for a radically deregulated and predatory financial system and fomented suspicions and divisions among this country’s citizens. The question for Wright, therefore, is not “whether Palin's rhetoric has gone too far; plainly it has. The question is whether the right's government-vs.-the people ideology has reached its natural climax: a government that cannot function enough to keep us safe and a nation defined by anger at itself. At what point will that be understood for the self-destruction that it is?”

     

    Credit: Reuters Pictures

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