Illustration by Patrick Yeung.

We must have all been in the seventh grade when we learned about fair and equal competition.

Back then, we were taught that no amount of cheats, threats or physical abuse could get us ahead of our classmates on the soccer field, or even ahead of our families in a game of Monopoly. That’s why it should be so astounding to the nation that a woman in her mid-40s could debase herself to those very threat tactics on the political world stage and not be reprimanded for it. Her actions were, and continue to be childish, violent and irresponsible.

Regardless of whether Sarah Palin’s “crosshairs” ad, depicting the crosshairs of a gun pointing toward 20 different U.S. district locations where government representatives voted for the health care bill did or did not inspire fanatic Jared Loughner to set out on a killing spree last weekend, murdering UC Santa Cruz alumnus Gabriel Zimmerman and seriously injuring Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), her actions still represent violence in and of themselves. Even without the connection, just the fact that her ad exists puts her at some degree of fault, not for the killing but for igniting the flame of violence, and there should be no room for that violence in politics.

Some conservative factions of the public sphere have taken a particular interest in hounding the second amendment lately — drilling it into the ground, in fact. But it’s not just fanatics on the right that have been fed enough right-left political and media garbage to motivate them to end another person’s life through terrorism.

The political left is at fault as well. The Arizona killer, Jared Loughner, apparently had interests in the books “The Communist Manifesto,” and “Animal Farm,” as discovered on his YouTube channel, and some believe him to be leftist and radical. He is also speculated to be insane, and some of his classmates testified to that after his crime. But he did target a representative in government — how can that not be political? The fact that Giffords is a Democrat points simply to the fact that politics inspires violence in general, especially the factious politics of today, something Sarah Palin champions.

All you have to do is look at the online comments for our very own opinion piece that ran in last week’s issue, about Palin and her identity politics, to realize that people get extremely fired up about politics, and about Palin as a political leader in particular. She has a very devoted following, garnered mostly through her divisive stances on issues and her “with us or against us” rhetoric. It’s exactly this that leads to horrific tragedies like the shooting this past weekend.

Our call for hate-free politics is not new, and perhaps it won’t last long enough to prevent the next tragedy, but we hope, alongside many Americans, that it will — and that this disaster will not be forgotten so quickly.