Sunday, January 9, 2011

Let this be the end of it

Stop the hatred Like most of you, I watched with growing horror as the events of yesterday unfolded. If you've been living under a rock, a shooter visited a town hall meeting in Tucson and shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head, as well as several others. Giffords survived, although her long term prognosis is unknown at this point. Six others did not survive, including a federal judge who had stopped by to greet her, and a 9-year-old girl who had just won the presidency of her student council and was interested in politics. The young girl was one of the "faces of hope," a child born on 9/11.

I cannot begin to convey the feeling of disgust, sadness, and outrage that I feel about this. I do not want to overly politicize this tragedy, and my heart goes out to every family member involved, and anyone who called these victims friends. But a few things need to be said.

By all accounts, the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was not right in the head. They have been unable to determine what his motivation was, or what his political philosophy might be. He's not talking to the authorities. It really doesn't matter. He's got problems, and he is going to be prosecuted for what he did.

What does matter is that the level of angry rhetoric and hatred has grown so great in the past couple of years that I and others felt that something like this was inevitable. I am not going to place all of the blame on Sarah Palin; there is no evidence that he was an ardent follower of her or others of her ilk, like Beck and Limbaugh. However, she and her special friends bear some responsibility in this, and it absolutely needs to be said.

I remember during the campaign when Palin would speak at McCain-Palin rallies, talking about how Obama was "pallin' around with terrorists," and angry crowd members would shout "Treason!" and "Kill him!" Palin laughed it off, continued to fuel the anger of these ignorant cretins. Even McCain (who will have to live the rest of his life knowing that he is the one who thrust Palin onto the national stage) had the presence of mind to tell one of the aforementioned cretins that Obama was not an Arab or any other such silly accusations. "He's a decent family man and citizen," said McCain. Palin had no such compunctions about stopping the angry mob, and in fact, has continued to egg them on since Obama took office. Even during the campaign, I remember thinking and saying, "Nothing good can come from this."

Palin-Giffords Well, now that has come true, and I am not happy at all about being the Cassandra in this particular case. It looks as though 18 people in all were shot, and six are dead.

Although I cannot place the blame directly on Palin, it appears as though she seems to comprehend on at least some sort of reptilian brain level that she does bear some culpability. Her handlers have been busy little beavers, scrubbing her online sites to remove things like this graphic. Thanks to the wonders of the Interwebz, such things never really die, and this picture is every-freakin’-where. Remember the races she was targeting? How those gun sight cross-hairs appeared on those particular races? Giffords was one of them, and expressed her concerns about this tactic. It's chilling to listen to the Congresswoman say "There are consequences." Indeed.

Also missing is Palin's tweet in which she urged "commonsense conservatives" and "lovers of America": "Don't retreat...instead, RELOAD!"

Although Loughner may not have been a direct follower of Palin, there is no doubt that Palin's violent rhetoric has contributed to what one Congressman described as a "toxic atmosphere" in our country as of late. It happens on both sides, but you'll find that the vast majority of violent, inciting speech comes from the far right. You won't find Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow pitching dehydrated food for the coming Apocalypse. There is no place in our national discourse for such shoot-em-up imagery, and we need to get back to the place where we all understand that disagreements do not need to be violent. It's one thing to feel passionate about our political views; it's quite another to continually use violent metaphors and talk about revolution and "2nd Amendment solutions." (That one belongs to bugshit crazy Sharron Angle.)

Palin Reload It really needs to stop here. This tragedy is a national one. Not just one of violence and death and bloodshed; it is a tragedy of our, if I may borrow one of Palin's favorite phrases, American exceptionalism. We value the freedom to speak our minds, we value that we are guaranteed the right to peaceably assemble and even protest. We value that our legislators are accessible enough that we can meet them and speak with them at town hall meetings like the one in which Giffords was participating. These are things that I value, and I know most, if not all, of my fellow Americans do also.

Ms. Palin, I put it to you that YOU are the one that doesn't understand American exceptionalism, and that you don't have the slightest grasp of how your words are endangering that. YOU are the one who is putting at risk our legislators' availability to their constituents. YOU are the one that will make people think twice about running for public office because they fear the actions of people like Loughner who are spurred on by your endless violent-speak and that of your supporters and your fellow reactionaries. You need to acknowledge that you have played a part in this current toxic atmosphere, but I doubt if you will ever bring yourself to admit any sort of culpability. Nothing is ever your fault, and you just don't have the intelligence necessary to understand that words do matter. YOUR words do matter. ALL of our words matter.

There is nothing good about this tragedy. But maybe, just maybe, it will put an end to Palin's time in the spotlight on the national political stage. That's the kind of hopey-changey thing that will work for me.


  1. You know Palin's spin doctors have been working overtime on this Miss Ginger has just been beside herself over this issue!! All because of angry, hateful political rhetoric!

  2. wonderfully written entry.....said clearly and i agree with it all. I do blame Palin...i think she is dangerous.

    i cannot get over the fact that a smart young girl is dead and she held so much hope for the future.

  3. Hi Beth,
    I think you're too kind to Palin on this. She -- and others -- have obviously been egging-on the extremists for their own gain for some time now. Sharon Angle, the candidate from Nevada, was even worse. She basically said that if the far right doesn't get its way -- if candidates such as herself aren't elected -- then people should exercise their right to bear arms. And she ran campaign ads positioning Latinos as "the enemy." Whether or not Palin, Angle or anyone else's comments specifically influenced this shooter, their rhetoric has taken the country to a new low. Shame on them. My heart goes out to all the victims of this senseless tragedy.

  4. Tucson is hurting right is our nation. At our usual breakfast hangout, not many people were out, when usually it is packed. At the grocery store, people are just in eye meets your own. It will surely take us a long time to work through this. My hope is that we are a better community, nation...

  5. I'm still in shock over it all. Can't take in that my blog buddy Ashleigh was right there and wounded. She's another like Giffords: moderate, reasonable, respectful, and caring. Just the sort of people we once believed our leaders to be. I've not felt such sorrow since Kent State.

  6. As with seemingly every strategy that the GOP has employed since 9/11, all of these 2nd Amendment references in campaign rhetoric are about fear. "Look what we can do if we want to; I'm not saying we will, I'm just saying..."

    One cannot explicitly blame Palin for what happened yesterday, but one can surely implicitly blame her. What did she expect? Giffords's opponent ran ads where he invited voters to come fire a gun (can't recall what type, but it was a large one) with him to show "everyone" what they were capable of.

    What did they expect?

  7. The violent, moronic words of Palin, Beck, Faux News and talk radio have paid off in blood. I'm shocked this happened sooner.

  8. Beth, beautifully said. Words and actions can reach well beyond their intended targets. Words and actions always have consequences, whether you want to take responsibility for them or not.

  9. Tragic, we can only hope that in some way, some good can blossom from this.

  10. While I do comprehend your take on this issue Beth, I think that it says more about society as a whole and how it presses down on certain people who snap beneath its weight.

    Sure, gun control may have prevented this from happening. But the culture beyond the political climate has to take more of the blame. How did Jared's mind degrade to where this made perfect sense to him? His parents missed the signs and I understand that, but I don't know what they could have done to alieviate the torments that may have been with this cat since child hood?

    I don't think that it is a mental health issue either. Finding out why cancer cells behave the way that they do would be easier than understanding the process that create the minds of mad men.

    How many serial killers stalk the streets? Should people in the public eye not be at risk for the same kind of randomness that can strike any of us at anytime? The reason that I mentioned 'cancer cells' is that like that scourge, could this not be a manner of 'natural selection' and how random chance often manifest itself in way more than a mega million number?

    Not anything quite as definite or dramatic as your view... but then again, I am jus' sayin'...


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