"How do you fire this gun, Chino? By pulling this little trigger!? How many bullets are left, Chino? Enough for YOU? Or YOU? All of you!! You ALL killed him! And my brother! And Riff! Not with bullets and knives! With HATE! Well, I can kill now too, because now I have hate!!! How many can I kill, Chino? How many....?"
Maria, "West Side Story"
How many more senseless deaths and injuries, such as those that took place in Tuscon last Saturday, are needed to convince this country that the path we've been taking for the past decade-and-a-half with our microphones and our politics is poison?
What's needed to convince the media executives, television and radio announcers and politicians who have been profiting through angry words that it's not just a game or a chance for them to make money or gain votes?
Three decades' worth of U.S. presidents, members of Congress and telecommunications agency workers in both major political parties deserve an equal share of the blame during the last three decades for loosening the bounds that prevented inciteful and hateful talk from taking over the airwaves. Then, they blamed the wrong sources for the coarsening of society.
While they were fussing about rock stars cursing on awards shows, they were ignoring outright lies, insults and threats directed towards elected officials.
While they were beside themselves over a singer's bared breast, they were ignoring the rise of cable television and commercial radio networks and personalities in the political propaganda business.
They were ignoring the fact that our debates about serious national issues such as health care were turning into Civil War redux.
Quite a few doing the ignoring then, particularly in Congress, are now the very same politicians cowering behind their office walls, in fear for their lives after the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 17 of her constituents - six of whom died.
Some of them are also the same politicians who have been inciting people to angry words and actions - all for their own political and financial profit.
Does the angry atmosphere have to do with Saturday's shooting? The fact that the question has to be asked means the answer is "Yes."
On a much happier day more than 17 years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, who would himself fall to an assassin's bullet, said, "Enough of blood and tears. Enough!"
Enough of the hatred that's been poisoning this country. Enough!