Sarah Palin put a bulls-eye on Gabrielle Giffords.
  • Sarah Palin put a bulls-eye on Gabrielle Giffords.
I hate to cast the shooting and likely assassination of a Democratic Congresswoman as the latest—and most chilling—example that political discourse in the United States has veered well past the point of civility. But it's a fair question, even as we wait for more information to come in.

Giffords had already been among a handful of Democrats targeted over support for national health care reform. Sarah Palin, these days trying to come off as a cutesy, rustic reality star, has repeatedly been accused of incendiary remarks. And everyone remembers the ugly epithets hurled at other federal representatives during the health care battles in the summer of 2009.

Update 2:36 PM:
So now we know who the shooter is. He's not quite the poster child for the Tea Party. Does that mean we shouldn't worry about violent political rhetoric, no matter which side is spout it? No.

A HuffPo writer offers a good look here at the dangers of the "lock and load" rhetoric that's been seeping ever closer inward from the fringes of our politics.

I know politics ain't beanbag. But words have consequences, rhetoric shapes reality, and much as we like to believe that we are creatures of reason, there is something about our species' limbic system and lizard brainstems that makes us susceptible to irrational fantasies.

If you're worried that violent video games may make kids prone to bad behavior; if you think that mysogenic and homophobic rap lyrics are dangerous to society; if you believe that a nipple in a Superbowl halftime show is a threat to our moral fabric - then surely you should also fear that the way public and media figures have framed political participation with shooting gallery imagery is just as potentially lethal.