Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Harvey Milk and Gabrielle Giffords

"I think it's important for all leaders... not just leaders of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party... to say, look, we can't stand for this...we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is that the way that she has it depicted has the cross-hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they've got to realize there's consequences to that action."

-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, March 25, 2010

We're all still reeling from the tragic events in Arizona over the weekend. For Cleve Jones, it meant reliving that horrible night in 1978 when his friend Harvey Milk was gunned down in San Fransisco, a victim of a hate-filled political assassin.

Cleve sent the message below to Courage Campaign members condemning this violence and the dangerous rhetoric in our political discourse today.

He and the Courage Campaign are calling on Chairman Darrell Issa to use his new power as Chairman of the House Oversight And Government Reform Committee to convene hearings into how this rhetoric may contribute to such violence.

Please join them in this call.

I know something about senseless violence.

I have never met Congresswoman Giffords, nor Judge Roll, nor any of the other victims of the shocking massacre that occurred Saturday in Tucson. But I recall as though it were yesterday the assassinations in 1978 of my friend and mentor Harvey Milk along with San Francisco Mayor Moscone. As if that were not enough, only seven years later, I was stabbed by a group of skinheads screaming "faggot." For me, political violence has never been hypothetical.

Harvey received so many death threats that he stopped looking at them. He almost assumed he would be killed, because of the hate speech and incendiary language that foes of equality hurled with impunity.

On Saturday, it happened again. While no one knows for sure what drove Jared Loughner to commit this heinous act, we do know that the toxic political discourse in this country today- candidates talking about "second amendment remedies", news networks featuring anti-government conspiracy theorists, and national political figures like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin describing themselves as "progressive hunters" and urging followers to "reload"- lays the groundwork for this kind of violence (1, 2, 3, 4). We shouldn't stand for it.

It has to stop. That's why today the Courage Campaign calls on Rep. Darrell Issa, the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to investigate the ties between violence and increasing calls for it in our national political dialogue.

Mr. Issa has promised to hold a hearing every day on various Obama administration programs and legislation. What about hearings on what led to this attack? How about an investigation into increasing calls for violence from national political figures, organizations, and the media? It's time for him to call hearings now on the environment that led to the deaths.

We know that law enforcement and the judiciary will bring the perpetrators to justice. But that's only this time. What about next time? We will never end this violence until we have an honest national dialogue about who and what is feeding it, and determine the steps that can be taken to prevent more violence.

Will you join me in calling on Chairman Issa to investigate how overheated political rhetoric can contribute to such violence?

Let us do more than bring the shooter to justice. Let us put the spotlight on those who are teaching the next shooter that violence is the answer.


Cleve Jones

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