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Them, Us, We – and Tucson: From Tom Ashbrook

Offices of Rep. Giffords during a vigil in Tucson. (AP)

By Tom Ashbrook

This is the river’s edge. We’ve got to pull back. Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s shooter was 22. That means he grew up in America’s years of trash talk – of increasingly rash, intolerant, hate-filled talk. Years of framing disagreement as Armageddon and opponents as traitors. This has to stop. There are very real, important arguments over this country’s way forward. We cannot duck those. But after all the “them” and the “us” of debate and political contest, we must emerge as “we.” We the people. And we the people must, together, call out those who twist our troubles into hatred.

Those who exploit the real challenges we face instead of helping solve them. Those who play with emotions and tilt them toward violence. No matter what your politics are, you have to ask why Sarah Palin drew a gun sight around Gabby Gifford’s district. Why she chose to say, on the biggest of stages, “Don’t retreat. Reload.” Reload what? For what? Democracy is not a place to toy with violence. Fundamental respect is precious. Real work on the nation’s problems is hard. We have to move forward together.

My kin came home bloodied from Vicksburg in the Civil War. We Americans are not immune from the worst. I’ve seen what happened in the Balkans and Rwanda when countrymen demonized and dehumanized one another, then slaughtered one another. The massacre in Tucson may have been the work of a troubled young man. But what were the messages this young man heard from too many people of prominence in our society? It’s sickening, and it has to stop. Serious Democrats and Republicans – serious Americans – understand this. At On Point we work for very real but fundamentally respectful debate and inquiry. We try to model that kind of citizenship. It’s time to call out, together and loudly, those who model violence.

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