It happened outside a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona on a crisp, clear Saturday morning. A motive for the shooting has yet to have been determined. The shooter is said to have been a "deranged young man" who acted alone.
Everyone on both sides of the aisle is, of course, decrying the senseless violence. Republicans are scrambling to distance themselves from the folks on the fringe while some Democrats are seizing the opportunity to foist them on their own petard.
Yes, there is a direct link between the rhetoric of violence and acts of violence. That point is so obvious to me it boggles my mind to think that there are some - apparently a great number - who actually don't get it.
This quote from this morning's NY Times editorial clearly summaries the problem for me:
"It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge."Of course, most of the people who are Tea Party members don't read the NY Times. They are encouraged by folks like Mrs. Palin to distrust the "mainstream media" and get all their information from Fox News Service.
However, "mainstream" Republicans do read the NY Times - at least, many I know do - and I can't help but think that this is as serious a 'wake up call' for them as it is for any anyone else on any side of any aisle who fans the flames of anger in this country - or anywhere else.
Yes, you read that right.
It's a "Liberal Hunting License Sticker" being sold at a place called the "Patriot Shop" and goes for a mere $3.25.
The add declares:
Liberal hunting season has been declared. Get your permit today!"Novelty"?????
"Liberal Hunting License -- 2009-2013 -- No Bag Limit -- Tagging Not Required."
Measures 3-3/4" x 3-3/4"
*Disclaimer: For novelty purposes only.
Since when has declaring open season on liberals - or any human being - been funny?
I suppose this little note at the end of the page makes it alright:
"All purchases at PatriotShop.US support our Mission of Service to America's Armed Services, and help ensure that The Patriot Post is distributed to hundreds of thousands of military personnel and students without a fee. The Patriot receives no corporate, foundation, political or special interest funding. Our mission and operations are funded by — and depend entirely upon — the financial support of American Patriots like YOU!"There now, don't you feel better? Doesn't that just make you feel 'red, white and blue' all over?
Violence seems to be an increasing part of the American culture. It's not just post 9/11. I was a young student in middle school when President John F. Kennedy was shot. That was soon followed by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. It was a terrible time in our history - one I had hoped we had learned from and would never happen again.
this image on Sarah Palin's web page not raise at least an eyebrow of concern? It's entitled "Don’t Get Demoralized! Get Organized! Take Back the 20!"
Is a visual image of Palin's famous line, "Don't Retreat. Reload."
If you look closely (you can make the image larger by clicking on it), you will see the name of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in the cross hairs of the target.
Would the fact that Giffords was once a Republican but became a Democrat have anything to do with this? No? How about that she's a woman and is Jewish? Nah!
Perhaps I'm being too facile - but probably not mistaken, especially in terms of what seems to fire the bigotry and racism and anger and hatred of those on the fringes of sanity.
While the Palin Political Machine is exhausting itself trying to back peddle away from even a whiff of any intent to do violence (they have, apparently, taken down the page) to any of the "targeted" legislators who voted for Health Care Reform, this sentence from the website can not be easily dismissed,
"This is just the first salvo in a fight to elect people across the nation who will bring common sense to Washington. Please go to sarahpac.com and join me in the fight."John Cole perhaps said it best,
"The point we have been trying to make for the last couple of years is that Republicans need to stop whipping up crazy people with violent political rhetoric. This is really not a hard concept to follow. There are crazy people out there. Stop egging them on."On January 5th, The Rolling Stone website posted an essay by Matt Taibbi entitled, "The Crying Shame of John Boehner"
There is a bone-chilling piece wherein Taibbi reports an exchange between Boehner and Ohio Democrat, Steve Driehaus after Boehner suggested that by voting for Obamacare, Driehaus "may be a dead man". Taibbi writes:
"Driehaus is quick to point out that he doesn't think Boehner meant to urge anyone to violence. "But it's not about what he intended — it's about how the least rational person in my district takes it. We run into some crazy people in this line of work."Political rhetoric is notoriously (and, unnecessarily) filled with vitriol. Passion is okay. It's fine. It's important. It's expected, actually. But, vitriol begins to cross the line of decency and begins to enter a danger zone of violence.
Driehaus says Boehner was "taken aback" when confronted on the floor, but never actually said he was sorry: "He said something along the lines of, 'You know that's not what I meant.' But he didn't apologize."
There is something different, however, about this particular moment of violence in our history.
I believe we have created our own culture of terrorism.
Blogs and radio talk shows and cable television programs exploit the dark visions of political extremists for their own profit and political gain.
That's how terrorism works. Terrorists always exploit the poor. Why not, the thinking goes. Everyone else does.
They have a point.
"When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled 'made in Germany' it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, 'Americanism."Those are the words of Professor Halford E. Luccock of the Divinity School of Yale University in a sermon he delivered at Riverside Church.
That was 1938.
The short hand version, attributed to Sinclair Lewis is “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross”.
Which is why I'm not as concerned about the bottom as I am the gap.
The economic disparity in this country grows larger every day.
It will get worse, I fear.
In a BBC radio broadcast last night, one reporter mentioned that the unemployment rate in the US has finally begun to decline, but noted - as only someone who is not an American could - that this may well be due to the fact that many of those who are unemployed have simply stopped looking for jobs.
I think he's onto something more than just clever "outsider" rhetoric.
Poverty has a way of eroding the soul. Despair has a singular ability to distort and color reality in dark, depressing shades of gloom and doom. It becomes its own swirling vortex from which even the strongest have difficulty emerging.
When those who are emotionally unstable are also affected by poverty. . .and when gun control is so lax in this country that even a person known to be emotionally unstable as to have been kicked out of his college program can still buy a gun. . . and when political vitriol is seemingly inescapable in print, audio and visual and electronic media. . . .well, the only thing surprising about the shooting in Arizona is that it didn't happen sooner.
Pima County Sheriff Charles Dupnik said it best,
"I think it’s time as a country we need to do a little soul searching because I think that the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from the people in the radio business, and some people in the T.V. business, and what we see on T.V. and how are youngsters are being raised. It may be free speech but it does not come without consequences. Arizona has become the Mecca of prejudice and bigotry."
I think that begins with holding ourselves accountable for allowing political vitriol such as the ones I've sited here.
Yes. It starts with me and it starts with you. We can not sit still while this insanity swirls around us. As we used to say, back in the late 60s, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."
Then, we hold accountable every other public and political figure who uses violent language, imagery and/or metaphor for political gain or financial profit.
I think a fitting tribute and legacy to Christina Taylor Green, the nine year old girl who was killed in Tucson while seeing Representative Giffords, would be a bill that would hold all public figures and politicians accountable for violent rhetoric and imagery. All. Of. Them.
And... and... and... as we're doing that, we put every effort, every energy into closing the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor.
Jesus said, "The poor will always be with you."
That's as much a statement of fact as it is a call to service.
Let's put down the guns, and the gun metaphors, and get on with closing the gap between the rich and the poor.
Then, and only then - in those acts of kindness and mercy and justice - might we be able to find the soul we have lost.