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The Tucson Shooting: An Open Letter to Joyce Kaufman

The following is an open letter to WFTL-AM (850) radio host Joyce Kaufman, whose incendiary political rhetoric included a Tea Party rally remark that "If ballots don't work, bullets will":

Dear Joyce,

How does it feel when you hear about the horrific shootings in Tucson yesterday? How does it feel to see that someone actually employed your idea of using bullets over ballots?

I wonder if deep down you're mortified, because you should be. You should finally be getting a terrifying glimpse of how your callous and ignorant words might actually affect South Florida and our nation.

I wonder how you feel when you hear about the death of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who was killed in the shooting at the Safeway along with U.S. District Judge John Roll and four others. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and survived, along with 11 others injured. Christina danced ballet and played little league. She had just been elected to her elementary school's student council and was invited by a neighbor to Giffords' political event yesterday to meet a real government leader. Instead she met a madman with a gun who decided that bullets were the answer.  

Christina was born on September 11, 2001, Joyce, a day that shocked and horrified this nation and a day that you have been using to help spread your message of war and hate ever since.

Joyce, I want you to look at Christina's face. Is that what you had in mind when you told people that bullets were a viable solution in politics? Will you explain to Christina's parents what you meant? How do you defend your irresponsible rhetoric now?

I know you aren't to blame for the shooting, Joyce. The killer was clearly unhinged and insane. But unfortunately it's the unhinged and the insane who might hear dangerous and incredibly stupid words like yours and act on them. Did Jared Lee Loughner hear your call to arms on cable television? Was he affected by them? Did they inspire him?

We may never know, but even the possibility should chill you to

your core. And I know it's not just you, Joyce. The entire Tea Party in Tucson came after Giffords, calling her a socialist and a traitor. Back in March, someone smashed the glass door of her congressional office in Tucson. Giffords' crime was trying to help more people get the health care they need -- something you're rabidly against as well, Joyce.

Sarah Palin, the veritable mother of the Tea Party movement, infamously put Giffords in her crosshairs back in March. Palin included Giffords in a poster of congressional districts she was targeting. One of the districts under the image of a rifle scope was Giffords, whose name was included on Palin's poster. Giffords was understandably worried about that, especially since her office door had been smashed.

Judge Roll couldn't avoid the crazies either. Back in 2009, he was subjected to death threats after right-wing radio hosts began criticizing him. His offense was allowing a civil case filed by illegal immigrants to continue.

Palin's timing couldn't have been worse. She put the rifle scope poster out the day after Giffords' door was smashed.  

"We're on Sarah Palin's targeted list," Giffords said on MSNBC on March 25. "But the thing is that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district, and when people do that, they've gotta realize there are consequences to that action."

That's a key word, Joyce -- consequences. Try to think of the consequences of your terrible words and the climate that you and your fellow Tea Partiers create when you equate gun violence with political action. When you tell people that bullets are a viable political alternative, some of them might just listen. When Palin tells her followers to "reload," some might take her literally. We already got a taste here in Broward how some might react to your own loaded words when the threats were relayed to you and your radio station that led to a lockdown of all of our public schools.

Tucson Tea Party sign
Tucson Tea Party sign

And it's not just the gun imagery I'm talking about. When you advocated the hangings of illegal immigrants who committed a crime, did you consider what effect such a suggestion might have on the Jared Lee Loughners of the world? Do you even have a clue what the hell it is you are saying?  

You demonize Muslims and beat the war drum against them every single day. Do you know what an expanded war would look like any more than you knew what it would look like when someone actually decided to use bullets instead of ballots?  

I hope the tragedy in Tucson finally helps you face the fact that you are coming from a place of monumental ignorance, Joyce. Instead of railing against the health care reform that Giffords voted for, go out and meet people who are suffering and are going to die before they should just because they don't have health insurance. That might change your view. 

Instead of advocating war, do some reporting from actual war zones, take a look at it up-close and personal. You might not be so cavalier about it. Instead of calling for the executions of illegal immigrants, spend a week in a migrant camp and get to know them.

And rather than implying ever again that gunfire is the answer in American politics, look at that little 9-year-old girl's face one last time. 


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