“This animal is dangerous. When attacked, it defends itself.”

— Sign said to have been seen on a cage in a French zoo 

It’s hard, when under an unjust attack, to refrain from responding unjustly.

After all, saying your critics are guilty of the same black deeds they allege you have committed is not an exculpation of oneself. A true defense has to show they are not only hypocritical, but wrong about what they are saying about you.

Fortunately, that’s just what happened in the aftermath of last Saturday’s shootings in Tucson, and it illustrates aspects of politics and public discourse in the present information age. One is that the ability of the left to use major media outlets to present only its point of view has been countered by radio, cable TV and new media formats that have become effective agents of response.

Let’s not go any further, though, without expressing sorrow for the slain on that terrible day, and offering continued prayers for the full recovery of the wounded.


In addition, kudos are due President Obama for a speech Wednesday night that made the right points in the right tone about the need for healing in a time of great domestic stress.

One could only wish the president had offered up his words on Sunday, as we would have been spared much slanderous vitriol in subsequent days if his urgings had been followed.

Nevertheless, a few more lessons can be learned from the events of the past few days.

One is that for some people, political motives and the quest for political advantage will overwhelm any other considerations. While most of the nation would have wanted time to mourn the victims and was willing to wait to see what the assailant’s motives were, many on the so-called “progressive” side were not willing to wait any length of time when there were conservatives to attack.

Those attacks, and the responses to them, have been available all week to anyone who is interested (and anyone who isn’t interested can hardly be blamed), so they won’t be recapitulated at length here.

A couple, however, are worth mentioning, if only because they have dominated the critics’ charges. One is that a campaign map created by Sarah Palin placed “crosshairs” on a number of states with incumbent Democratic representatives, including Arizona.


The illustration above shows she isn’t the only one with that distinctive flair for graphics.

In truth, military metaphors have dominated our political campaigns (and media coverage of them) for generations. As has been noted, “campaign” is a word with military roots, and a quick survey of this paper’s headines before the 2010 election found such words as “attack,” “dueling,” “dust-up,” “war of attrition” and “gloves are off.” Testy, aren’t we?

Much more importantly, no one has shown any link between any conservative and the actions or associations of the alleged shooter, so assertions that there is one can be ignored — as can the gun-control advocates who will use any tragedy of this sort to attempt to link law-abiding people who exercise their constitutional rights with the actions of criminals who abuse them.

More to the point are those who are saying that our system for involuntarily committing people who present a danger to themselves and others is badly flawed. Advocates say only a few mentally ill people fit that description, but we do no one any favor by not trying harder to identify and help them.

Next, Dan Henniger had an interesting essay about “Why the Left Lost It” in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal. He asked why so many on the left did their best, against all evidence, to tie this shooting to the tea party movement and conservatism in general, and listed two reasons: political calculation and personal belief.

That is, the left was shocked by the 2010 election and its potential to move the national political discourse to the right for a generation to come.


So, “what happened in November has to be stopped, by whatever means become available,” by portraying tea partiers and top conservatives “as part of the same dark force.” Who believes this? They do.

That is, these “progressives” don’t just see conservatives as wrong, but “psychologically dangerous and undeserving of holding authority for any public purpose.” If you ask them, “Can’t we all just get along?”, he says, they respond “no.” The virulence of what we’ve seen this week proves the point.

Want a local example? A few weeks ago, columnist Cal Thomas expressed his opposition to permitting homosexuals to serve openly in the military, and linked that to the drive for same-sex marriage as an equally pernicious social trend.

Now, tens of millions of people agree with Thomas, myself included. But a letter writer did not, which is her right.

However, she didn’t just disagree. She said he should be “turned over to the proper authorities so that Thomas could be charged with the hate crime he has just perpetrated

That is, Thomas should be jailed for his opinion.


Hey, put those cuffs on me, too. And what about those other tens of millions? Do we have that many prisons?

The goal in all these cases seems to be to intimidate into silence everyone who disagrees with the left. But we won’t be intimidated, on these issues or anything else.

M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or at:



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