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Gabby Giffords, a tragic prophet

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Images and audio recordings trace the developments over two days in the shootings outside a Tucson, Ariz., grocery store that killed 6 and critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.)

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It was Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, who spoke of "Second Amendment remedies." And, yes, it was Palin who put those gun sights over the districts of the Democrats she was trying to defeat, including Giffords.

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The point is not to "blame" American conservatism for the actions of a possibly deranged man, especially since the views of Jared Lee Loughner seem so thoroughly confused. But we must now insist with more force than ever that threats of violence no less than violence itself are antithetical to democracy. Violent talk and playacting cannot be part of our political routine. It is not cute or amusing to put crosshairs over a congressional district.

Liberals were rightly pressed in the 1960s to condemn violence on the left. Now, conservative leaders must take on their fringe when it uses language that intimates threats of bloodshed. That means more than just highly general statements praising civility.

In honor of Giffords, the effort to drain the rhetorical swamps should be as nonpartisan as she was in her interview. It is wrong, at any point on the spectrum, she said, to "incite people and inflame emotions."

There are, she said, "polarized parts of our parties that really get excited and that's where, again, community leaders, not just, you know, the political leaders, all of us have to come together and say, 'Okay, there's a fine line here." '

It is not misusing an overly invoked word to say it is tragic that a politician so attuned to the costs of political violence became its victim.

ejdionne@washpost.com


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