A year after suffering a near-fatal gunshot wound to the head, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) led hundreds of people in the Pledge of Allegiance on Sunday in an emotional ceremony marking the first anniversary of the Tucson shootings. Many participants wept as two 10-year-olds talked about their friend, Christina-Taylor Green, who was one of the six people killed. Some cheered as Giffords' husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, said that the 13 people who survived their injuries proved that "alongside human frailty there is also strength." In the wake of the tragedy, politicians and citizens alike swore that they'd disavow violent rhetoric and adopt more respectful tones. But a year later, has the nation really matured?
Yes. This tragedy served as a wake-up call: "The Giffords shooting helped create an abrupt sobering-up of the public dialogue," says Tom Zoellner at The Daily Beast. Tucson's last city elections "passed with hardly an ill-tempered word spoken." The man behind Arizona's "roiling battles over immigration," former state Senate president Russell Pearce, was booted by his own constituents, and tough-guy Sheriff Joe Arpaio's stock is falling. Tensions remain, but the rhetoric has cooled — and that's a start.
"In anti-government Arizona, even the shooting of a representative can't change politics much"
No. Clearly, we learned nothing: Americans talked about being "polite and respectful after the shooting rampage," says E.J. Montini in The Arizona Republic. And we did manage to briefly soften our tone. But it didn't last. This election season, newly created super PACs and their wealthy, anonymous donors are trashing candidates like never before. If Tucson taught us anything, it's that "even our most horrific tragedies don't change us for long."
"The forgetful way we remember tragedies"
The problem is we're still playing the blame game: One would hope that the passage of time would "correct persistent fallacies about who was responsible for the massacre, and who was not," says Robert Soave at The Daily Caller. But liberals still cling to their belief that some "evil spirit" — Arizona Republicans, to be precise — pushed accused killer Jared Lee Loughner over the edge. This tragedy was the handiwork of an "apolitical psychopath," not our poisoned public discourse.
"A year after Tucson, blame in all the wrong places"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- Rise of the machines
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Gamergate has backfired spectacularly on its nincompoop perpetrators
- It's time to kill school picture day
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The uncomfortable truth in The Giving Tree
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- How ISIS gets its hostages
Subscribe to the Week