Let's be clear from the start. The guy accused of trying to assassinate Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing six people in the process is nuts. You can't claim there was a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the angry, sometimes violent imagery used in the world of politics with his decision to try to gun down the Democratic congresswoman. But at the same time, you can’t totally dismiss the effects that such political speech might have, particularly on the more unhinged among us. Sarah Palin, as everyone now knows, disseminated a map of congressional districts she thought the Republican Party should try to reclaim last year, including Giffords' seat, and very clearly marked them with the crosshairs of a gun sight. I'm not suggesting that gunman Jared Loughner, shown at left, saw those crosshairs and took that as an order to commit violence. But it's part of the rotten fabric of what's left of America. Do Democrats and Republicans both engage in demonization of their opponents. Certainly. But let's not pretend that it's equal. Those on the right have a much "richer" history of late when it comes to hinting at violence, or the need for such, if the political opportunities for "taking our country back" are not successful. The underlying message, which no one really wants to say out loud, is that the day is coming, because of President Obama and his minions, when blacks, Mexicans, Arabs – heck, anybody that doesn’t look like a good, old-fashioned white Amerkun – will arrive on your doorstep to take your stuff and maybe even kill you. Just being honest. That's what is written between the lines. When shameless demagogues on the radio and some TV networks, interested only in their approval ratings from a sheeplike fan base, build mental pictures of a post-insurrection, post-societal-collapse world in which only those hugging tightly to the most gold, guns and ammo will survive, we eventually will end up with political killings. Most people who listen to these programs will just don tri-corner hats, slap a “Don't Tread On Me” sticker on the back of their vehicle and bleat incessantly about Obama being a foreigner. But then there are those few who take the extra steps. They join a backwoods militia, playing Army in the woods and waiting for their opportunity. Or, like Timothy McVeigh, they take the anti-government message to another level and blow up a building with women and children inside. Or, like Richard Poplawski, they believe the lunatic-fringe claims that the government is going to take our guns, and they kill police officers. Palin could have apologized for her role in ratcheting up political rhetoric and call for change. But did she? Of course not. She blamed the media and political pundits (which, ironically, is what she is these days) for stoking hatred and violence by having the audacity to suggest that maybe, just maybe the poisoning of the well of our civil discourse might have tragic consequences. She accused the journalists and political analysts of creating “a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.” No, what is reprehensible is Palin’s stupid use of the term “blood libel” and her refusal to accept any blame, not one speck, for the sorry condition of our politics today. People with a pulpit, like Palin and the talking heads on TV and radio, have a responsibility to use it wisely, to recognize that their words – their choice of words and images – carry weight with many people, including a few who have lost the ability to recognize the difference between right and horribly, horribly wrong.
Labels: Crime, Politics, Stupidity