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Conservatives should resist the urge to exploit the shooting of a Republican congressman and stay off the path liberals paved in 2011, when it was one of theirs who lay bleeding on the ground.

Finger pointing was despicable then, and would be now.

When Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords’ was shot in a Tucson parking lot, Democrats and media pundits rose immediately to pin the blame on the tea party, Sarah Palin, conservative talk show hosts and any Republican who had ever uttered a harsh political word.

Palin, the former Alaskan governor and GOP vice presidential candidate, drew particular fire because she had sponsored a political ad that superimposed cross hairs over targeted Democratic congressional districts, including Giffords’.

The New York Daily News declared the congresswoman’s “blood is on Sarah Palin’s hands,” adding, “anyone with any sense at all knows that violent language can incite actual violence.”

Recall during that period the tea party was cramming town hall meetings to shout their grievances at Democratic congress members. Giffords’ Arizona Democratic colleague, Raul Grijalva, smoothly connected the dots between the tea party’s rhetoric and the attack on Giffords:

“(When) you stoke these flames, and you go to public meetings and you scream at the elected officials, you threaten them — you make us expendable you make us part of the cannon fodder. … Something’s going to happen.”

The left was at its self-righteous finest. It mattered little that the shooter was a self-styled Marxist, not likely influenced by Republican opinion.

So where do liberals stand now, when they are the ones who’ve been using hateful language, excusing violence at anti-Trump protests and packing GOP town halls to scream members of Congress off the stage?

Were they stoking the embers that burst into flames Wednesday in that suburban Washington park, where Republicans were practicing for the annual congressional baseball game? GOP Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others were shot, apparently solely because they were Republicans.

The assailant, who was killed, is identified as a “passionate progressive” who volunteered for the Democratic presidential campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and was committed to the destruction of the Republican Party. If Palin was responsible for the attack on Giffords, should the perpetually angry Sanders shoulder the blame for Scalise?

Should the gunman, given his politics, be considered an extreme extension of the Democratic resistance movement?

I say no. And while some on far right fringe are seizing the opportunity to turn the tables on the left, I hope rational Republicans will avoid the opportunism Democrats exhibited in 2011 and bite their tongues.

The blame in Alexandria rests in the same place it did in Tuscon: with the guy who pulled the trigger. Some people are just crazy.

His strings weren’t manipulated by an oh-so-clever Broadway director indulging Trump assassination fantasies, or by a B-level comedienne dangling a bloody Trump head, or by the overwrought rantings of the Democratic establishment.

They were pulled by his own demons. Let’s leave it at that.

Nolan Finley’s book, “Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice,” is available from Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble Nook.

nfinley@detroitnews.com

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