Sunday, January 9, 2011

Words Have Consequences

“You’ve got to think about it, our democracy is a light, a beacon, really, around the world because we effect change at the ballot box, and not because of these outbursts, of violence in many cases. Change is important, it’s a part of our process, but it’s really important that we focus on the fact that we have a democratic process.”
-U. S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)
“I think it’s time as a country to do a little soul-searching. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.”
-Clarence Dupnik, Pima County Arizona

Today, Gabrielle Giffords fights for her life, one of 19 victims of a political assassination that include a federal judge and 9-year old girl. The shooter is undoubtedly an insane man who acted on the murky motives of psychosis. Another time, another day, that may have been explanation enough. In 2011, it is not.

Over the next few days, conservatives will condemn these political assassinations in stentorian tones, repeating over and over that they do not condone violence. John "Hell No" Boehner, who must no doubt be pleased with the media stock photos of him and Giffords sharing a laugh, tells us that "Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society." (Apparently, those of us who are not public officials are out of luck.)

But that isn't the issue.

The question isn't whether conservatives condone murder. Few people do. But they have fomented it with their unveiled threats to water the the tree of liberty with blood of supposed tyrants; with their dark talk of a second civil war; with their wild accusations that anyone not like them is a dangerous socialist; with their portrayal of President Obama as a psychotic villain; with their threats and calls to arms; with their advocating the lynching of US senators; and with their use of rage and lies as a substitute for the honest debate that they cannot win. And for some, though the Susan Collinses and Olympia Snowes will deny it, it has come with their silent acquiescence to behavior that one hopes troubles them deeply.

Sarah Palin has reportedly removed the above graphic (the emphasis on Rep. Giffords is mine) from her web site while at the same time denying that it in any way signifies the culture of violence adopted by the extreme right and encouraged and exploited by establishment Republicans. Giffords' opponent last fall, one Jesse Kelly, disputes that campaign commercials depicting him with a gun and wearing hunting fatigues were in any way relevant to the actions of a madman. Others urge us not to jump to conclusions about causality and gather their guns around them as if the Second Amendment had been assaulted and not nineteen innocents at a Tucson shopping mall.

There is a place in our political culture for anger and outrage: Both have fueled movements for justice. But that's just the point: They were means -- and not the only ones -- to humane ends of extending the blessings of liberty. They weren't expressed through intimidation and terror with the intent of silencing and disenfranchising the Not Like Us.

These people are nothing but thugs. They should be treated as such. Palin's graphic has one thing right: It's time to take a stand.

17 comments:

Sylvia K said...

Terrific -- if sad post for the day and I couldn't agree more! These times get scarier by the day and one can't help but wonder if enough sane people are still around to help us move past these people, their actions, their goals.

Sylvia

Roy said...

And don't forget that just up the road in the neighboring state of Nevada Sharron Angle was suggesting that those who agree with her should consider "Second Amendment remedies". The whole Tea Party movement is nothing more than the reincarnation of the SA in Germany in the '20s and '30s; it's a thugocracy-in-progress.

sEAN bENTLEY said...

I've typed and erased several responses to this but find that I am so outraged by America that I can't even finish this senten

T. Clear said...

Ditto what sEAN said....

The Clever Pup said...

As a Canadian I can only shake my head in dismay. With no "normal" leader of the Republicans in sight I despair for you.

Ima Wizer said...

I consider Sarah Palin to be an accomplice in these murders! She should be arrested and jailed and held accountable!

TaraDharma said...

this is one of the most thoughtful responses to this assassination that I have read. We'll see how the Speaker's comments play out, we'll see how they run off the mouth about "figure of speech" and "this was just a crazy guy." Any way to distance themselves from the violent rhetoric they have been espousing. Their feet need to be held to the fire (now, don't go burning anyone's feet) about their rhetoric and they must lead their party is changing the tone.

paula said...

Tara---Don't hold your breath!

K---Once again, you've said all the things the rest of us wish we had said.

Roy---thugocracy! What a perfect description!

To all----one of the wounded was none other than elderblogger Ashleigh Burroughs over at The Burrow. See her blog for information provided by her daughter.

Rastamick61 said...

A few non surprises : this happened in Scarizona. Her opponent Jesse Kelly also invited folks on June 12th to come on down and empty a fully auto M-16 for a $50.00 donation to his cause. His cause : Get on target for victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from Office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly. The primary target of the shooter was a woman and a Democrat (some would call her a blue dog but she wasn't blue enough apparently.) Well done as always K. Marshawn ran though those boys like he was driving drunk down on Chippewa.

pinkpackrat said...

Personally, I am hoping that this Arizona shooting is a tipping point that will lead to reasoned discourse rather than name calling and a blame game-- but I am not hopeful.

One way or another this has got to stop

tnlib said...

Well said, as usual. I keep hoping something good will come out of these tragedies. I hoped so after Columbine. After Oklahoma City. Memphis. Dallas. But things just seem to keep getting worse.

injaynesworld said...

O'Reilly, Limbaugh and the others are going nuts trying to cover their asses on this one and they are only coming off as even more vile. I truly believe that most people in this country are sick of the vitriol coming from the right. Let's hope people do take a stand -- to not stand for it anymore by turn the dial on their radios and TVs. If this doesn't end it, nothing will.

Linda Pendleton said...

I also agree with the sheriff and you. The use of words and images of violence by political figures and some in the media is dangerous and I have been saying that for some time. It is time they take responsible for their behavior and stop.

This really is not about guns but about using words and images to manipulate and to grow fear, anger and hate. And someone even slightly unbalanced can be influenced.

Sad that it has come to this.

bayoucreole said...

Well said K.

Infidel753 said...

If Palin's gunsight map and inflammatory rhetoric have nothing to do with the shooting as she claims, why remove them? She's floundering.

The stridency and histrionic fury of the right wing's denialism about this connection has, it seems to me, an undertone of panic. In part, it's themselves that they're trying to convince.

Deep down, they know.

Jittery said...

Thanks for the perspective K. It does make me think... I think I'll do that over a cup of coffee.

Nance said...

Thuggery, intimidation...those are the right words. Palin was introduced to us in '08 as Sarah Barracuda and she continues to earn that reputation. And the right has ridden that reputation all the way to Tucson.