Obviously, the massacre in Tucson was committed by a deranged man.
We may never know his motives, but if it was apolitical he would've probably killed his parents or neighbors or some strangers with no connection to politics.
He murdered a nine-year-old girl and five others at a political gathering. He wounded 14, including a congresswoman who is a conservative Democrat in a swing district.
The local sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, noted this coincidence and offered some points to consider:
Naturally, he created a firestorm among conservatives and allowed liberal pundits to pile on.
Now, we don't know if the "fiery rhetoric" had anything to do with the tragedy in Tucson, but the fundamental truth of Dupnik's comments cannot be denied.
It is also true that this "fiery rhetoric" comes almost entirely from the right wing, be it Republicans, Libertarians or teabaggers.
On one side you have MSNBC, which few Americans watch. On the other, you have Fox News, which a lot more viewers watch, plus the extensive range of "hate radio." (Newspaper punditry doesn't matter because newspapers' influence these days is minuscule when compared to TV and radio.)
In Bend, we have three AM radio stations. One is all sports. The other two feature lineups of conservatives from Limbaugh to Hannity that spew hate 24-7. Judging by the sheriff's comments, I'm sure Tucson mirrors Bend in this regard.
In Bend, though, we don't have a Democratic representative in Washington and haven't had one for decades.
If we did, gauging from the hostile letters printed in the local paper since President Obama was elected and all the angry anti-Obama bumper stickers around town, I wouldn't be surprised if we did have some sort of horrific incident here.
But, Oregon isn't Arizona, not by a thousand miles.
In spite of the general crankiness of ultra-conservative rural voters in Oregon, the state is run by progressives on the west side of the Cascade Range in Portland, Salem and Eugene.
In Arizona, a red and red-meat state, Republicans dominate state government and routinely stumble over issues like illegal immigration and Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Arizona State University waffled on whether or not to give Obama an honorary degree when he gave a commencement address there.
For a thorough background on Arizona's legislative wackiness, check out this piece from Harper's Magazine.
But back to "fiery rhetoric."
You would think that people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Sarah Palin and others would tone down their hateful rhetoric after what happened last Saturday. Rep. John Dingell read aloud on the House floor some of the violent political rhetoric uttered this past year.