Lay the blame for murders on the people who pulled the trigger

By JAYSON JACOBY Baker City Herald June 05, 2009 11:23 am

Two Americans were murdered this week because they chose careers that some people don’t approve of.

On the list of ridiculous reasons to kill somebody, this ranks right beside “hey, he looked at me funny.”

In America, at least so far as I understand this country’s values, a person ought to be able to pick a profession and, so long as it’s legal, not have to worry overmuch about getting shot by some lunatic who dislikes the source of the income.

And so it seems to me that a chill wind has blown across our land since Dr. George Tiller and Army Pvt. William Long were slain.

This is the sort of gusty weather that persuades people to keep their heads down — and their opinions to themselves — lest someone with a rifle take offense.

I have nothing against solid shelter. But I prefer to seek its refuge not because I fear for my life but because I don’t want to get soaked by a storm.

The murders of Tiller and Long constitute a rare confluence of violence and politics.

Tiller performed third-trimester abortions in Kansas.

The man charged with murdering Tiller, Scott Roeder, despised abortion, according to his former wife.

Long volunteered to recruit soldiers.

His accused killer, Abdulhakim Muhammad, is a Muslim convert who told police he wanted to “kill as many people in the Army as he could because of what they had done to Muslims in the past” — including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Put simply, this pair of murders highlights two of the more polarizing issues in America today: abortion and the war against terrorism.

This isn’t necessarily a problem.

In fact the tragedies and their implications could lead Americans to engage in thoughtful, reasonable debates about these complicated and intensely personal topics.

Except what the murders seem to have spawned is quite the opposite — a flurry of inane political posturing by pundits who cast the blame for these senseless acts at their ideological foes rather than at Roeder and Muhammad.

And they are the only two people on the planet who deserve to be accused (neither, of course, has been convicted).

In Tiller’s case, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has been implicated, it seems to me, as a sort of accomplice to Roeder. O’Reilly’s sin, as it were, is that he said many times before the murder, and in the blunt way which is his trademark, that he thought Tiller’s earning millions of dollars performing late-term abortions was a despicable business.

It seems not to matter that O’Reilly, the day after Tiller was killed, condemned the murder and acknowledged that Tiller broke no laws.

By criticizing Tiller on his TV program O’Reilly had, according to this ludicrous theory, enticed zealots such as Roeder to pull the trigger.

This is nonsense — as nonsensical, in fact, as suggesting, as some people have, that war protesters somehow encouraged Muhammad.

By that standard, the Beatles should have been brought up on charges for the Manson murders.

What troubles me about the allegations which have followed the Tiller and Long murders is that they sully what I think is one of America’s finer attributes — that you can say you think a person is a wretch without having intellectual lightweights conflate your opinion into a summons for homicidal maniacs.

Perhaps I’m hopelessly naive, but I still believe that most Americans understand that not every person who chastises abortionists thinks abortionists deserve to die, nor that every war protester hopes Muslims will kill American soldiers.

In any case, the people who endeavor to advance their cause by linking O’Reilly or the ACLU to the likes of Roeder or Muhammad achieve nothing, it seems to me, but the dubious distinction of having used the spilled blood of innocents as political fodder.


Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.