The cold-blooded shooting death of Dr. George Tiller of Witchita as he attended Sunday services at his church is no ordinary murder. It's a political assassination that likely will have a substantial and long-lasting impact on the ongoing national debate about abortion -- to the detriment of the pro-life forces. It is they who will be saddled for years to come with the need to distinguish themselves from Dr. Tiller's killer.
Police have a suspect in custody already. No doubt, he'll proclaim himself a hero for stopping an abortion doctor who has long been a special target of anti-abortion radicals because he's one of a small number of practitioners willing to perfom late-term abortions. Tiller was shot once before, in 1993, but survived. Whatever this suspect says will likely make matters worse for the pro-life movement. That's monumentally unfair, of course. Pro-lifers are overwhelmingly peaceful, law-abiding citizens. There are only a handful of right-wing extremists in this country who are inclined to engage in violence. But it's a fact, nonetheless, that Americans are horrified by political violence of any sort, so that the actions of the handful can cast a shadow of doubt across a whole movement. The left in America has only recently recovered from the bad rap given to it by the few dozen bomb-throwing radicals in the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army.
Political murder is anathema to our constitutional democracy. We settle our differences through elections, representative government, and the rule of law. It is our ability to manage even the most emotional issues and conflicts in a peaceful and orderly way that distinguishes us (and a regrettably small number of other nations) from countries where disputes are settled with guns. It is what makes us different from and better than contemporary Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Burma, Bosnia, Congo, Zimbabwe, and so many others. When a single man takes a gun and shoots someone dead to make a political point -- whatever the issue -- the gun is aimed at all of us.
What do you think? Post a comment.