Jan 10, 2011
Police charged 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner with walking up to U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in a Tucson, Arizona supermarket parking lot and shooting her in the head. He is said to have then shot the people around her, murdering six people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, and wounding 12 more. Hours after the shooting, the police said that Loughner may not have acted alone and were looking for another man.
Loughner might be an unbalanced person, as the press is reporting. But the shooting is not only the product of a sick mind. It’s a product of the devastation capitalism has wreaked and of the vile racist and violent propaganda pushed by the rabid right-wing.
Arizona has some of the highest rates of home foreclosures in the country, as well as skyrocketing unemployment. The extreme right wing has fed on the anger and desperation created by this crisis, and tried to divert it against some of the main victims. Key Republican officials, starting with Governor Jan Brewer and Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio, have sought to cash in on the growth of this extreme right wing sentiment. Brewer sponsored the racist law profiling immigrants that was passed in Arizona last year. Arpaio set up detention camps in the middle of the desert for “illegal” immigrants.
In describing the political atmosphere that surrounded this shooting, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik framed the issue in a common sense way: “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain 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 think, has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
In fact, the rise of “prejudice and bigotry,” which is increasingly being accompanied by violence, is hardly limited to Arizona. Nor can this rise be blamed on just the extreme right wing of the Republican Party and the Tea Party. No, the hands of the Democrats are far from clean – even while posing as the supposed friend of unions, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights. After all, the Obama administration has carried out more deportations of immigrants than the Bush administration did.
Gabrielle Giffords may have been a mainstream “moderate” Democrat, supporting, for example, cuts in social spending. But she has also been against some of the most overt bigotry of the extreme-right. She strenuously opposed the recent Arizona anti-immigration law, as well as supporting abortion rights for women.
These stances made her a target for the likes of Sarah Palin. But Giffords beat back a Tea Party electoral challenge this past November by Jesse Kelly, a former Marine, who advertised himself on his website dressed up in full military gear holding his automatic weapon.
The deteriorating living conditions that underlie the growing desperation and anger are due to the attacks of not just the government, led by both Democrats and Republicans, but the big business interests that they defend.
Economic violence and political violence are mounting and are dependent on each other. And in the long run, the working class will be the main target of such violence.
In this climate, working people need their own party more than ever. It’s a party that does not yet exist, but building it is critical.