NASA keeps putting off the final launch of space shuttle Endeavor, so who knows when it will finally lift off. It's a media event because Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a grievous injury, flew to Cape Canaveral to witness the first attempt which was scrubbed. President Obama was another guest. I'm sure she'll try to return when her husband and his crew finally make it off the pad. And America — and Arizona — have written an inspiring, inoffensive narrative of the affair: Plucky heroine fights back from adversity to see her heroic spouse fly into space. What happens next? Is she, some ask, the natural replacement for Sen. Jon Kyl when he retires?
Little of this is real, but it's a test of our collective blast-off from reality. No one but family and close friends really know how she's recovering from such a traumatic injury. There's no chance that a Democratic congresswoman from Pima County who barely secured re-election could win the statewide Senate race in an Arizona that is one of the reddest places in America.
Most horrendous in this Lifetime movie version of events is the Soviet-style airbrushing of the most important fact: Giffords was the target of an assassination attempt that grew directly out of the extreme hate- and gun-filled rhetoric of the Tea Party election season in 2009 and 2010. Almost immediately after the shooting, which claimed six lives and injured 12 others, the rewriting of history began. Why, this was just the work of a deranged individual. So what if his reading included Ayn Rand? And what possibly could be the connection between Jared Lee Loughner and, say, repeated death threats to Giffords, the widely televised gun-toters at the president's appearance at the Phoenix Convention Center, Sarah Palin's gun sights on Democratic candidates (including Giffords), lines such as "Don't retreat, reload" (Palin) and "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous..." (Michele Bachmann), and the weakest gun laws in the country. Nothing to see here, move along.
In Arizona, I detect no moderation of the comments on AzCentral. The Legislature put through the most extreme agenda in the state's history, including allowing guns on college campuses (ultimately vetoed by Gov. Jan Hull Napolitano Brewer) and other measures to extend the "rights" of krackpots to be armed everywhere and with everything. Nor did the shooting cause any pullback whatsoever in Arizona's loose gun laws. Not for nothing does the state come in with the worst gun safety laws in the nation. As someone who has been shooting since I was seven years old (and am a former NRA member), I can tell you that stupid, short-tempered people and shootin' irons make a bad combination. When the heated rhetorical and legal climate is combined with the state's gated-property, hide in the Arizona room, don't know your neighbors ethos, naturally the least hinged members of the "community" will act out in lethal ways.
So the Giffords story will apparently go on in this fantasy narrative. It's convenient for the Kookocracy, restrained a bit by the "business community" but who is co-opting whom... It's convenient for an America that doesn't want to look itself in the face. Yet it legitimizes political murder. There's no sugar-coated way to put it.