There's an online comic book/graphic novel retailer called Heavy Ink. I won't link to the site--if you want to find it, you know how. They have some comics and graphic novels that I've written in stock. I'm asking you now not to buy those from Heavy Ink. Or anything else, really. But in particular, nothing of mine. I typically don't mind where people pick up my work, as long as they do, but the president of Heavy Ink, in reference to Saturday's tragic shootings in Tucson, Arizona, wrote a blog post he called "1 Down, 534 To Go." He means the 535 members of Congress. He thinks they should all be shot.
I don't want him selling my work.
I can't make him not sell my work, but I can ask my fans not to buy my work from him. If he has a book that you want, and there's no place else you can find it to buy it, e-mail me and I'll work out some other arrangement for you. My e-mail address is easy to find on my website, or here, or on Facebook or MySpace. I'm not hard to reach. Let me know, and I'll make sure you get the book.
He's put up a longer post since then, explaining his theory of government and the Constitution--which he claims to have read several times, but which he apparently doesn't understand. The founding fathers were not writing a document calling for a strictly limited federal government. In fact, they specifically rejected the idea of strictly limiting the power of the federal government, and created a system in which the federal government would usurp the power of the states over many, many areas of law and life.
But that's a political debate. He's more than welcome to whatever political beliefs he wants to have.
When it comes to recommending assassination as a legitimate political tool, though, he has gone too far.
The Gabrielle Giffords I know is brilliant, articulate, witty, energetic, courageous, and she believes deeply in good government. Perhaps more importantly, she believes that government should be good, and can be good, and it's her mission to make it so. For anyone to suggest that shooting her would improve America in any way shows that they do not understand America, or indeed humanity.
I'm all for freedom of speech. But I recognize that free speech has a cost. We don't yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater, to use the old example. We don't yell "Kill the congressional representative!" or "Kill the senator!" or "Kill the president!" for much the same reason. The problem isn't the 99.9% of reasonably balanced individuals, who understand that you're using exaggerated rhetoric to make a point. The problem is those other people, the ones who are not so balanced, the ones whose pathologies are fed by this rhetoric, who take it to heart and use it as permission to commit the acts they so deeply want to commit. That, I believe, is what happened in this case.
From everything I've heard and read, Saturday's shooter was a very disturbed young man. He wasn't traditionally political. I wrote a book last year about serial killers and mass murderers, and I did a lot of research for it, and I think I know a little bit about psychoses and pathologies and what drives people to kill. This shooter would have killed someone, sooner or later, I have no doubt. But he was living in a state where anti-government rhetoric is easy to run across, in an age and in a country where the same is true. You don't have to try hard to find people who will tell you that the government is evil, they're out to get us, they need to be stopped before our country is taken away for good.
That kind of nonsense, of course, ignores the fact that "government" is you and me, the voters, and the people we send to state capitals and Washington. It ignores the fact that if political assassination is considered acceptable, our country is already irreversibly lost. And it ignores the fact that our founding fathers built in a remedy for "taking back" the country from whatever ill-advised hands we put it into--we get to vote, in two years, or four, or six, for somebody else.
Put it this way--we survived 8 years of terrible mismanagement at the hands of George W. Bush. We can survive just about anything. So what's worth shooting anyone over?
I would like politicians and media figures alike to leave that kind of language out of their vocabularies. I would like individuals to do the same. No more nooses at political rallies, no more guns at political rallies, and no more crosshairs on political posters or websites, and no more talk about how "second amendment" remedies will work if voting doesn't. I would like us all to look at what we have in common, not where we're different. To engage in constructive dialog about the problems that confront us, not divisive hate speech. To foment kindness, not fear. We are, really, all in this together.
But when people call for political assassination--even if it's just hyperbole, to make a point--I'll call them on it, and I'll refuse to do business with that person, and I'll ask that my readers do the same. I write for human beings.