Monday, January 10, 2011

Politics: Lesson from Arizona mass murder--conservatives must stop criticizing liberals

In the two days since the mass murder in Arizona, a dreary parade of pundits and politicians has discussed the problem of dangerous "rhetoric" in American politics.  This rhetoric, apparently, led to the crime--and could lead to more tragedy if we don't do something about it, right away.

For example, Pima County (Arizona) Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik--a liberal activist who, I think, has been bringing discredit to his shield with his comments since the shooting--said, "When the rhetoric about hatred, about mistrust of government, about paranoia of how government operates, and to try to inflame the public  on a daily basis, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it has impact on people especially who are unbalanced personalities."  (Yes, poor syntax is always a sign of poor thinking.)

Another example:  "The rhetoric has risen to such a level that people can no longer discuss differences in any civil way," Representative Marcia Fudge said.  "We need to take a step back and think about our humanity . . . If this is not a wake-up call, I don't know what will wake us up."

And whose rhetoric is most at fault?  Whose rhetoric has reached the most toxic level?  Is it Joy Behar?  Keith Olbermann?  Harry Reid?  President Obama himself?  No--apparently, as it turns out, the destructive rhetoric has issued almost exclusively from Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, the "Tea Party" and other conservatives.

Speaking of Tea Party activists in connection with the shooting, Democrat Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona said, "[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. For a while, you've been feeding this hatred, this division... you feed it, you encourage it... Something's going to happen."

Palin's offense, apparently, was in a graphic that appeared in her political literature that called for "targeting" certain districts for campaigning.  And Sheriff Dupnik, who seems to be neglecting his law-enforcement duties in favor of TV appearances and interviews, is now openly feuding with Limbaugh in the media.

As I write this, the smarmy Charles Schumer is on television, calling--in his most sincere voice--for more gentle rhetoric in politics.  A long-time advocate of gun control, Schumer has apparently come out for rhetoric control as well.

What is happening here?  It seems obvious:  The political left, and their supporters in the media, are attempting to exploit this catastrophe in order to vilify their opponents, and to create a taboo against criticism of their policies.

President Obama and the Democrats have been criticized quite harshly in the public arena over the last few years, and rightfully so--their policies have been quite destructive to our culture and country.  The level of outrage they have triggered is equal to the radical nature of their policies--not least, their assault on the health care system.  This criticism--this emerging national consensus that liberalism is a losing bet--led to memorable losses for the Democrats in the last elections, and I'm sure they don't like that too much.  If only they could make it seem that conservative advocacy was responsible for the Arizona tragedy, conservatives would have to become more subdued in their public comments--and Democrats could pursue their agenda unencumbered.

But the whole thing is a vile hoax.  There is no evidence that the demonic man who did this crime was influenced by any "rhetoric" from conservative leaders, or even that he's aware of such rhetoric.  What we've seen of his writings is the gibberish often associated with mentally-ill people.  And to the degree any political philosophy can be discerned in the vomit-pool of his thoughts, he seems to be sort of a leftist.

And even if it turned out that he was obsessed with Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh, or any other public figures, that still would not make them responsible for his acts, any more than Jodie Foster was responsible for the shooting of President Reagan.

We have a tradition of vigorous political debate in our country, and it shouldn't be curtailed out of fear of  provoking the insane.  Instead, we have to ask ourselves why this manifestly disturbed person was allowed to remain, free, among us.  Why don't we have a system in place for confining people who, as everyone who comes in contact with them can see, are time bombs ticking down to zero?

There is nothing wrong with intense political conversation--that's how we do business, and it's served us well ever since Tom Paine gave us a dose of Common Sense.  Let's not allow politicians to use this incident to create a comfort zone for themselves, in which they can be free from harsh criticism while we shrink from voicing our opinions too strongly.

And when, as we devoutly pray, Gabby Giffords is fully recovered and back in her office, let's welcome her home by taking her to task, in the strongest possible terms--maybe even with a few raised voices--for her vote in favor of that horrendous Obamacare bill.  She did the country a disservice with that vote, no matter how fine a person she may be, and there's no reason we shouldn't tell her so.

No other way would show sufficient respect, and love, for her--and for our traditions.

  

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1 Comments:

At January 20, 2011 at 2:35 PM , Anonymous Keith said...

"If only they could make it seem that conservative advocacy was responsible for the Arizona tragedy, conservatives would have to become more subdued in their public comments--and Democrats could pursue their agenda unencumbered."

A very good point. The "mainstream" response to this was predictable but there was a small hint of desperation as well. An undertone of "Would you just SHUT UP NOW?!?"

To date, their most successful tool had been shame. Admitting to harboring such "old fashioned" values as personal responsibility, limited government and fiscal restraint was mockable. Then it was disgraceful. Then it was offensive. Then it was racist (this, apparently, is a crime of the highest order and worthy of being branded with a scarlet "R").

When the Bush administration kicked off the orgy of bailouts and constituent dismissal, people started to mobilize. And that was okay, since it was against a Republican. But when things continued under the current administration and the Tea Party coalesced, out came the usual tactics. They didn't work this time. Even the "r-word" was getting shrugged off as overused to the point of being meaningless.

So now, this last grenade of guilt: "Your refusal to play - and lose - by our rules has cost lives!" I don't think they would care to play tit-for-tat over how many lives their words and policies have extinguished. And I don't believe I will be riding in the back of the bus or shutting up any time soon. And I *really* don't think they'd want to try to make me.

 

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