Former Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, created her now-infamous “cross hairs” map targeting Democratic legislators who voted for President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Bill. These Democratic U.S. Representatives were elected in districts that Republican Presidential nominee John McCain and Palin carried in the 2008 Presidential election.
Using the cross hairs, the symbol of the rifle aiming device, Palin emphasized in her map that these Democrats were particularly vulnerable for defeat in the next election. On January 8, 2011, however, at a Safeway supermarket parking lot in a suburb of Tucson, Arizona, a man named Jared Lee Loughner took the symbol literally.
As U.S. Representative Gabrielle (Gabby) Giffords met with her constituents, Loughner shot Giffords through the head at point-blank range, and then went on to shoot 18 other people killing six, including a nine-year-old girl and a federal District Court Chief Judge. Giffords suffered severe brain damage and did not run for reelection.
High Profile Political Assassinations in the United States:
President Abraham Lincoln (1865), President Chester A. Arthur (1881), President William McKinley (1901), Senator Huey Long (1935), Medgar Evers (1963), President John F. Kennedy (1963), Malcolm X (1965), Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1968), Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1968), S.F. Supervision Harvey Milk (1978), S.F. Mayor George Mascone (1978).
Certainly, Sarah Palin does not stand alone in using violent imagery or language. Take the example of Donald Trump. Recently at a rally, after repeating his consistent lie that Hillary Clinton, if elected President, will take away people’s guns by appointing Supreme Court justices who will place severe restrictions on the ownership of firearms, he warned his audience:
“If she gets to pick her judges, there’s nothing you can do, folks,” as the crowd booed. He then added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”
Though debatable as to his actual meaning, many took his words as veiled threats of violence against Hillary Clinton and left-leaning judges.
Gabby Giffords and her husband, astronaut, Mark Kelly, penned a response published in the New York Daily News:
“Donald Trump might astound Americans on a routine basis, but we must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence. Responsible, stable individuals won’t take Trump’s rhetoric to its literal end, but his words may provide a magnet for those seeking infamy….When candidates descend into coarseness and insult, our politics follow suit. When they affirm violence, we should fear that violence will follow..,.”
If this had been the only instance that Trump used such language, politicians and the media would have in all likelihood let it slide. But Trump cannot seem to help himself from spewing incendiary drivel from his guts to his mouth.
During the primaries, he prided himself on his popularity to such an extent that he claimed: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”
At a rally as security officers escorted a protester from the hall, Trump yelled with a disgusted sneer on his face: “I’d like to punch him in the face….In the old days, [protesters would be] carried out on stretchers. We’re not allowed to push back anymore.”
Just before the Iowa primaries, Trump claimed at a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids that a security officer warned him that some protesters might throw tomatoes at him on stage. Trump advised supporters that if this were to occur, they should show no mercy and “knock the crap out of ‘em!” He pledged he would pay for supporters’ legal fees.
At a Trump rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a white man sucker punched an African American man in the face as the security patrol led the protester out of the auditorium.
Trump focuses major initiates of his foreign policy on violence. He advocates using brutality, such as waterboarding and other extreme measures, when interrogating prisoners. He wants to track down and “take out” families of suspected terrorists as a means of “retribution.” And he advocates that Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia acquire nuclear weapons in their arsenals.
In the most recent National Civility Survey, when asked whether they believed that civility has eroded in modern life in terms of personal relationships, government, business, media, and on-line, 65 percent of respondents stated that this is a “major problem” while 71 percent believed this has “worsened recently.”
In the final analysis, all high visibility celebrities and candidates for elective office must be held to a higher standard in making certain they do not project even the slightest impression that they are advocating violence as a solution in solving problems. When they do, however, they serve as negative social role models, and they must be held accountable.
High Profile Political Attempted Assassinations in the United States:
President Andrew Jackson (1835), President William Howard Taft (1909), President Theodore Roosevelt (1912), President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933), President Harry S. Truman (1950), President Richard M. Nixon (1972), President Gerald Ford (Sept. 5 & 22, 1975), President Ronald Reagan (1981), Representative Gabrielle Giffords (2011).
The role of men is changing in the 21st century. Want to keep up? Get the best stories from The Good Men Project delivered straight to your inbox, here.
Photo Credit: Getty Images