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Gabrielle Giffords [Jan. 8th, 2011|10:38 pm]
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The intentional shooting of Gabrielle Giffords at a meeting with her constituents--and the deaths and injuries of others, including a federal judge--is causing an interesting split in reactions.  Mine, I'll get to in a moment.  There's a definite interest in presenting this as the work of (as someone on another venue is insisting) "just a random nutter."

She was shot through the head (a through-and-through brain injury) at close range by one Jared Loughner (or Laughner--it's been reported with both spellings) a young man who now, after the fact, is being described as the usual "loner" "different" etc.  What he was really, we don't know yet.  "Random," however, seems the wrong adjective for someone who deliberately targets a politician and comes in close for the kill--and then also shoots anyone standing near her.

It's amazing she's alive.  She's had brain surgery, and she's in intensive care, and the surgeons are talking about recovery.  They do not, however, mean complete return to what she was before.  Because that is not possible with a through-and-through brain injury with hot lead. Her brain has had a hole ripped in it.  It's had heat (bullets coming out of a barrel placed close to the target are not cool items--it's called hot lead for a reason) applied to it.  It's had bits of bone stabbed into it.  The surgeons will have removed the bone bits they could, and they will have sewn up the ripped arteries, and they will have done what they can for the exit wound damage, which is larger than the entrance wound...but suffice to say that Congresswoman Giffords is not going to take her seat in Congress any time soon, except perhaps to show a brave face.  If complications don't set in; if nothing more goes wrong.  It's still likely that she could die--

Traumatic brain injury is no different in a civilian brain than a military brain.  Anyone with an intact brain should have had some exposure (personally or through TV programs) to the effects of the myriad TBIs coming out of the war zones in the past 7 years.  The few people who survive a through-and-through (which is, however, better than when the bullet bounces around inside the skull tearing more holes) are permanently damaged...permanently.  They go into long-term rehab programs where they try to learn work-arounds for whatever part of the brain was destroyed.  Until the swelling in her brain goes down (and I'm reasonably sure her surgeons are familiar with the latest techniques for handling that, something developed for military personnel in this latest war) it's impossible to know exactly what she'll lose.  The surgeons--who have seen the actual damage--will have some guesses, based on many previous examples of brain damage and the results and what they saw in her head.  They say she's responding to commands--which means that she's not in a coma--but doesn't mean she's OK.  She's not OK.

I emphasize this, because there are already people saying "Oh, she's still alive and the surgeons say they expect her to recover, so she'll be OK."  No. I don't know what calibre weapon the shooter used, but all calibre does is change the amount of damage, not the nature of it.  I saw gunshot wounds to the head when I was a paramedic.  Some were alive when we got them to the hospital.  None survived.  I've seen (in person and on television shows about wounded vets) people with the long-term results of traumatic brain injury.  They're not what they were--they're not WHO they were, because who we are--our self-image of ourselves--is generated in the brain.

I suggest that you all sit back and take your index finger and place it at any point on your head...and imagine punching a hole all the way through.  Imagine the impact...the hair and torn skin and shattered bone being driven into the soft tissue of the brain itself, carrying all the bacteria that were on the hair and skin into that previously sterile environment...the bits of bone slicing what the bullet doesn't, arteries and veins bursting, blood pouring out into the space behind the bullet, the shock waves of the impact propagating through the brain.  Imagine the bullet's swift and destructive passage, plowing through structures that give us sight, hearing, the senses of smell and taste and touch, emotional stability, cognition in all its complexity--the ability to recognize faces, tunes, words we hear, letters on a page--sensory integration, motor control for movement, the sense of balance, control of sphincters, all integrated, in the adult brain, and working together...but now ripped asunder.   Would you be you, if you lost the memory of ten years of your life?   If your lover's touch felt like barbed wire and not gentle fingers?   If  you could not write your name? 

She may be paralyzed, partly or completely.  She may be unable to speak--or she may speak, but incoherently.  She may not recognize the faces of her loved ones or her colleagues.  She may be unable to taste what she eats, or know a hot surface from a cold one.  The muscles of her face--or one side of it--may droop, pulling her mouth awry.  She may be unable to smell the roses, or anything else.  She may be blind, or she may have partial sight, or be unable to tell a hawk from a handsaw.  She may lose her hard-won knowledge; she may lose her equally hard-won emotional control.

My reaction, already criticized as hasty, is that Sarah Palin and her infamous map of Democratic Congresspersons to be targeted in the 2010 election--a map that shows their states and homes with little cross-hairs, the view through a rifle scope--makes "random nutter" pretty damned unlikely.  Nutter, maybe.  "Opinionated" (one person's comment) nutter, maybe.  But opinionated nutters are aimed at their targets by such things.  It was irresponsible at best to suggest that political opponents were targets for firearms.  It was especially irresponsible to do so in the continuing climate of controversy over firearms--of which Palin is a staunch advocate.  The link between crosshairs and Palin's stance on firearms is solid enough that other than nutters could see it--and have, by their comments through the months on right-wing talk shows and TV channels.  This is why, whatever is learned about the shooter, I consider this a political assassination, and consider it tied to Palin's--and the Tea Party's--"joking" references to shooting, targeting, etc. their "enemy."

"Joking" about shooting people gets you in trouble with law enforcement, if you're not in the right party at the right level.  If Palin's map were not a political ad--if it were a hand-drawn map, and one of the people listed were found dead--and most especially if Palin were poor, brown, black, or an immigrant--she'd be in police custody right now and her house would be torn up looking for evidence, as Loughner's is. She'd be considered an accessory to the crime.  But she's the darling of her party, she's perky and cute and says "gosh"...she's got money and power behind her, so she'll be able to slide away from this.  She won't be investigated, or arrested, unless (and I don't think even Palin is stupid enough for this) she hired the man.   It will be explained that he is the nutter, he's responsible for his own acts, she certainly didn't intend to have cross-hairs mistaken for, like, you know, real weapons.  Wink-wink, nudge-nudge...because she knows perfectly well she's the darling of the nutter gun enthusiasts as well as the sane ones.

But remember it, the next time she's on TV as an important person, when her cute little nose wrinkles up in that cute little way and she looks perky and energetic and just so gosh darn wholesome, like a puppy...this is a woman who thought putting crosshairs on duly elected Congresspersons was a great idea.  Her political action committee.  Her signature.  This is a woman who's made shooting gestures in the context of a campaign.  She has that little respect for law and order and the rights of others to disagree with her. 

She should never be elected to any office of responsibility, ever.   She has no judgment.  
(And a lack of other qualifications, but the lack of judgment is the one at issue here.)

(Oh, you want to see the map--you managed to miss it last year?  [info]cdozo  has it up on her LJ.)

And you're wondering if I'm a wimpy hunter-hating gun-hating knee-jerk liberal....no, though I do know where to put that knee in some circumstances.   I own firearms.  I use firearms.  Get over it.   This is not about your precious Second-Amendment rights, but about a political assassination and a likely trigger for it.

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[User Picture]From: scarlettina
2011-01-09 04:46 am (UTC)
Good post. Well said.
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[User Picture]From: seankreynolds
2011-01-10 01:45 am (UTC)
"If Palin's map were not a political ad--if it were a hand-drawn map, and one of the people listed were found dead--and most especially if Palin were poor, brown, black, or an immigrant...."

Or if she were a Muslim.
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[User Picture]From: queenmaggie
2011-01-09 04:59 am (UTC)
Brava. Though nothing less than I would expect from reading your posts before this nor from the
moral and honorable and upright person who has written your books.

- A bleeding heart liberal.
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[User Picture]From: makoiyi
2011-01-09 05:05 am (UTC)
Well said and enough said.
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[User Picture]From: bookwyrm_sr
2011-01-09 05:06 am (UTC)
Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: shsilver
2011-01-09 05:15 am (UTC)
Palin apparently took the graphic down from her site today and deleted all posts referencing the shooting from her twitter account. I've been told she's also deleting any comments that tie the two together.
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[User Picture]From: elialshadowpine
2011-01-09 05:30 am (UTC)
Which is just going to serve to make her look even worse, because all of that is already out there. Trying to cover it up after the fact? Makes it look even more intentional.
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[User Picture]From: kyburg
2011-01-09 05:20 am (UTC)
9mm Glock. I am aghast, but not surprised either. Gods, I am too old. Too damn old and remember too damn much.
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[User Picture]From: varina8
2011-01-09 05:53 am (UTC)
scarlettina pointed me your way. I appreciate what you wrote. I don't see the difference between this kind of domestic terrorism and that being conducted by Islamic extremists. You have those in positions of influence inciting the powerless to take violent actions for ideological purposes. When looked at that way, Osama bin Ladin and Sarah Palin look pretty similar to me.
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[User Picture]From: twilight2000
2011-01-09 09:25 pm (UTC)
What varina8 said.
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[User Picture]From: see_tree_me
2011-01-09 05:59 am (UTC)
For people who don't know what recovering from gun shot brain injury is like a very good movie is "Regarding Henry" with Harrison Ford.

And it wasn't just a political assassination. A Federal Judge was killed. A Judge. Ordinary Citizens like a 9 year old girl, killed for just being there. Making it dangerous for anyone to even talk to their representative.

This is an attempt to kill our Republic.
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[User Picture]From: kengr
2011-01-09 06:05 am (UTC)
It's not just Palin. Way too many Tea Party types have made comments about "second amendment remedies" if things didn't go their way.

And this isn't a new tactic. It's just that it's moving from the fringe of the anti-abortion movemt to the fringe of the Republican patrty.

In *both* cases, I wish there was a way to apply the "shouting 'Fire!' in a crowded theatre" standard to such things without stifling other "objectionable" speech.

Because make no mistake. This sort of rhetoric *is* inciting vilence and those using it *should* be held at least somewhat responsible for it.

It's no longer possible to claim that "I didn't think anyone would take my comments as justification to actually do something violent". That ship sailed decades ago.

That sort of rhetoric *is* "ordering" the nutcases to attack your enemies. And anybody who actually doesn't know that is a fool.

We can no longer *afford* such rhetoric. It never did anything to enhance legitimate debate or discussion anyway. So losing it as a tool will just remove a *barrier* to reasoned discussion.

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[User Picture]From: blackbyrd2
2011-01-09 09:26 am (UTC)
Supporting this comment 100%.

"Joke" death threats towards GW Bush on a bumper sticker got at least one person jailed. You would think that a public person making comments clearly designed to actually incite violence would be at least as serious.
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[User Picture]From: jordan179
2011-01-09 10:02 am (UTC)
Is there any evidence that the shooter was at all a "right winger" by American political standards? He seems to have been anti-liberal democracy in general -- he was obsessed with both The Communist Manifesto AND Mein Kampf -- and he also seems to have been lashing out at authority figures in general for their supposed sin of attempting to control his mind. Note that those who he shot included a Democratic congresswoman, a conservative federal judge, and pretty much everyone else he could shoot before he was taken down. That sounds like a political alignment of "insane," not "Republican."
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[User Picture]From: drewkitty
2011-01-09 10:46 am (UTC)
I actually agree with you. Either the clock stopped or you've got a very strong point.
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[User Picture]From: darcy807
2011-01-09 10:57 am (UTC)
Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: filkertom
2011-01-09 12:57 pm (UTC)
Indeed. Many, many thanks.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-01-10 04:51 am (UTC)
One thing about my years involved with rural and emergency-response medicine...I have a very vivid memory of a lot of violence and its aftermath. We had saves (the 4 yo with the open depressed skull fracture after a cousin accidentally ran into him with a motorbike and the kid hit his head on the edge of a concrete step...two years later, he was apparently doing fine) and we had losses (the 2 yo who got into the pool enclosure and drowned, the older woman whose fall from a four-wheeler tore open her brachial plexus and she bled into the mediastinum and compressed her trachea.) I saw gunshot wounds to the head and the chest and the gut...suicides and assaults both. Did my hospital training for EMT and Paramedic at an Army hospital (serious trauma and lots of it at a base where young soldiers are training with seriously lethal equipment.) We picked up their people on the road; they wanted us to know how.
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[User Picture]From: melissajm
2011-01-09 02:25 pm (UTC)
I don't care how "opinionated" someone is. I don't care what political party they belong to. Civilized people don't do this, don't support this, and don't condone this.
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From: baobrien
2011-01-09 05:26 pm (UTC)
Totally agree!
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[User Picture]From: Becky Kyle
2011-01-09 02:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Elizabeth. You said this better than I ever could.
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