Political reaction to the tragedy in Tucson has been almost universally off key.
First the Republicans.
There could have been a new national dialog on violence, politics, and the role of guns and gun metaphors in our public discourse. After all the Republicans believe that guns are a good thing; you would think they would be willing to stand behind them. But instead, all we got was reflexive defensiveness. For example, Sharon Angle who emphasized "second amendment remedies" in her campaign now disavows any possible casual connection to the violence.
Inappropriately attributing blame of a singular tragedy to achieve a political agenda is contrary to civil discourse
Let me get this straight. Anyone in this country who would, with heartfelt cheerfulness, wish someone "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is willfully and maliciously undermining the values of this country. They are damned by their words alone.
People who make this argument are the same people who for many years have argued that violence in Hollywood movies and video games can be directly casually linked to violence in the real world. Most of that violence by crazy people. And yet now the idea that violent political rhetoric might be tangentially related to the crimes of a crazy person -- of course it would be wrong to assign cause or blame.
Finally, cause and effect are the wrong measures. We can never know if Sarah Palin's bullseyes or Glenn Beck's pistol or Limbaugh's "kill liberals" rhetoric was directly responsible for the madman's rampage. Of course we can't know that; the interior workings of other people's minds are secret.
The question is does that discussion move us forward? Is it productive? Is there a world where political change is possible without allusions to violence?
I'd like to think there is.
UPDATE: Second, the Democrats.