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Welcome to The Seattle Times' online letters to the editor, a sampling of readers' opinions. Join the conversation by commenting on these letters or send your own letter of up to 200 words letters@seattletimes.com.

January 10, 2011 at 5:49 PM

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Arizona assassination attempt leaves six dead, Rep. Giffords severely wounded

Posted by Letters editor

Bullets instead of reason

Editor, The Times:

Violence is the last resort of those without convincing arguments [“Congresswoman shot in Arizona rampage,” page one, Jan. 8].

Actions of assassins prove the emptiness of their ideas. Their frustration, their anger resulting from their inability to support their positions leads them to try to win the argument with bullets instead of reason.

— Jerry Cronk, Shoreline

Speak out against hate

The tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona should remind all responsible citizens of Sarah Palin telling her right-wing disciples to “reload,” Rep. Michele Bachmann telling tea-party followers to “get armed and dangerous,” Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, that their hate speech a virtual call to arms is likening our president and the Democrats to enemies of the state.

In 1935, witnessing the rise of fascist violence in Germany, author Sinclair Lewis wrote, “When fascism comes to American, it will come wrapped in the flag and wearing a cross.”

Comfortable middle-class Germans knew exactly what was going on in 1935, but they were silent. We must not be silent. It’s time for our citizens, especially mainstream Republicans, to speak out against the threatening speech from America’s far right.

— Fred LaMotte, Steilacoom

Words have consequences

Confronted with the horrific shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and six constituents who lost their lives, we all should be reminded how tremendously words matter.

Giffords was described by one of her fellow congressmen, Alan Grayson, as “one of the most cheerful, charming and engaging people I have ever known. She’s always looking on the bright side. She has something good to say about pretty much everyone.” And yet she was subjected relentlessly to a phenomenon that has come to be called becking: To be “becked” is to be held up as such an evil and destructive person that someone, somewhere, will interpret it as a call to eliminate that problem through violence.

The tea-party opponent of Giffords held a fundraiser at a shooting gallery: “Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.” Additionally, Sarah Palin published her famous “crosshairs map” with Giffords’ district in the gunfights.

Words have consequences. Dark, angry and mentally disturbed individuals will always be among us. Relentless becking in the media and at the water cooler feeds their deepest fears and targets an “enemy.”

It is time for us all, including the corporations that pay for advertising, to stop feeding the rhetoric of violence.

— Valerie Tarico, Seattle

Who’s to blame?

After reflecting on the killings in Arizona over much of the past 24 hours, a cause is surfacing in my mind. Do we place the blame entirely on the actions of a deranged youth? Are the right-wing radio and television personalities with their bombastic rhetoric at the heart of the problem?

We can find fault with all of the above, however I feel the root cause runs deeper. The problem is endemic in our society. It rests with those who are willing to pursue profit at any social cost.

I charge all of those who invest in video games that promote violence in the form of shooting anything that moves and endorse general mayhem. I charge those who invest in broadcasting networks that promote elevated rhetoric in order to attract listeners and viewers. I charge the viewers and listeners of these violence spewing channels and stations.

If our aim as a society is to educate the young that violence and frontier justice are suitable alternatives to discussion and reason then we are doing a great job.

There was a time when six-gun justice was the only justice. Those days are long past.

Today we are minus one of our eminent judges. A federal judge of high repute was killed in Tucson. A 9-year-old girl was murdered while covering a political event as part of her education, also in Tucson. As a former teacher of government, who sent many students out on such class assignments, I weep for her, her parents and her teachers.

It is time for national dialogue on the question of violence in society. Education of each new generation is a sacred duty of society at large. It is my opinion that our schools are trying hard to educate our students that violence is not the way to deal with society’s problems. Is society, in general, trying as hard to show the young that there are alternatives to violence?

— Don Rogers, Camano Island

Leading by fear and guns

Evidently we cannot have a reasoned discussion about the horrible effects of the lethal combination of political hate speech, easy access to guns and our failure as a community to care for people with mental problems. As we try to have a conversation between adults in the wake of the events in Tucson, already we’re hearing the whining from the fringes about how “it’s not my fault, who knew that putting crosshairs on someone’s district might be taken the wrong way” and other such babble.

Anyone who listened, really listened, to the people speaking from Tucson in the wake of this tragic shooting, in particular Sheriff Clarence Doupnik, could hear the anger and frustration in their voices about the heated rhetoric and insanely easy access to guns that are life in today’s Arizona. I lived in Tucson from 1999 to 2009 and watched 10 years of Arizona’s slide down the slope of leading-by-fear-and-guns — a slope that our whole country is on.

When do the grown-ups get to take back control of America from the lunatics who have been given the keys to the front office? I am often reminded of a line from “War and Peace” to the effect that if evil people can band together to do evil things, why cannot good people band together to do good things? This is a question that is very pertinent, one we must answer or we will all suffer consequences such as those we watched unfold in Tucson.

— Jim Secan, Seattle

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