Politics As Warfare
When President Obama took office in 2008, a manufactured political movement began, which coined itself – The Tea Party. Members of the Tea Party were so sure of their political cause, and bolstered by Republican backing, they didn’t think twice about showing up at rally’s, protests and town hall meetings accompanied by their side holstered handguns and fully loaded assault rifles. Some members even resorted to carrying loaded weapons to appropriately named/themed anti-Obama rallies, which lead one blogger to ask folks to imagine if the Tea Party were black. Would the acceptance of these attitudes and behaviors be so easy to come by?
Without a doubt, this country is in the midst of a growing crises of epic proportion relating to matters of journalistic irresponsibility, led by certain media types, which has incited violent acts to occur.
You see, it was no coincidence that Sarah Palin urged Tea Partiers to adopt a “lock and load” mentality when it came to usurping congressional power from the Democratic House and Senate in the November elections. Their aim was to say and do everything in their power to defeat the Democracts in 2010, and they didn’t pull a punch. Palin and Co. rallied the base to return control of the House of Representatives over to Republicans. Palin’s website displayed a map of the U.S. highlighting states with rifle scope cross-hair targets of the 20 congressional districts up for election. While Palin was not the first politician or journalist to use a map of this nature, she gets credit for being the most inflammatory and shocking of all with her use. The map was removed from her website, SarahPac.com, immediately following the shooting in Arizona. The intent was to finger a number of Congressional Democrats campaigning in the midterm election, Gabrielle Giffords being one. Palin urged supporters to “take back the 20” by ousting Democrats that voted for the health care law.
Giffords was fully aware of the impact and power of Palin’s words, and persona, perhaps more so than Palin herself. Her office was vandalized shortly after voting yes on the bill. The front door of her office building was shattered. It would be the first of any such violent incidents arising on the heels of the highly anticipated vote.
Sarah Palin’s efforts were unsuccessful in Gabrielle Giffords state where she won re-election. Millions of dollars poured into the district and attack ads ran rampant as she campaigned against Tea Party favorite, Jesse Kelly, who ran an intimidating campaign. The ads were vicious by design, and in a district that’s mostly conservative, Giffords emerged as the moderate voice of the people. Kelly’s campaign included a June 12th gun event that was billed as follows:
“Get on Target for Victory in November – Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office – Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”
Now think back to the 90’s when Clinton was president and the country experienced a number of violent acts carried out by anti-government extremists. The Oklahoma City and the Summer Olympics bombings both contributed to the black cloud that hung over politics during the 90’s. Both bombers, American terrorists, held heavy anti-government sentiment that fell to the right of center in politics.
Fast forward to today. Sarah Palin is hardly the lone gun woman in this tragic story, but I don’t even need her words to highlight the destructive nature of violent speech in general. It’s no mistake that the bulk of the quotes come from self-identified right-wing pundits.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann encouraged her constituents by stating: “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on the issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing, and the people – we the people – are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States.”
Ms. Bachmann is well known for talking about the virtues of Christianity, but doesn’t think twice about using terms like “armed and dangerous” to rally her base.
Rush Limbaugh daily doses of vitriol leave much to be desired: “I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus–living fossils–so we we’ll never forget what these people stood for.”
Ann Coulter: “My only regret with Tim McVeigh is that he did not go to the New York Times building.
“Bill O’Reilly: “Americans who work against our military once the [Iraq] war is underway will be considered Enemies of the State by me. Just fair warning to you, Barbara Streisand, and others who see the world as you do. I don’t want to demonize anyone, but anyone who hurts this country in a time like this, well, let’s just say you will be spotlighted.”
Michael Savage: “I say round liberals up and hang em’ high. When I hear someones in the civil rights business, I oil up my AR-25.”
Glen Beck: “Hang on, let me just tell you what I’m thinking. I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could.”
These quotes were taken from David Neiwert’s book “The Eliminationists.
“If this congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out” – Sharon Angle
“When contemplating college liberals, you really regret once again that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors.” – Ann Coulter
When Joe Stack flew a small plane into an IRS building in Texas last year, politicians extended condolences to the victims, but at the same time sympathized with his disillusionment with IRS. The fact that he was a registered Democrat didn’t dissuade Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) from identifying with the terrorist when he called the IRS “an unnecessary government entity” following the attack.
Spoken and unspoken rhetoric has worked its way into the very conscienceness of American society, which is ripe with political tension. Jared Loughner, the young man that shot 20 people, including Congresswoman Giffords, and killed 6 others, was in some way politically, personally, and socially motivated. What’s also clear is that he displayed behaviors that do not co-align with what society deems as “normal.”
Is Sarah Palin responsible for his actions? No. There are no solid facts to support the notion that Jared Loughner was right-wing or left-wing, but what we know for sure is that his actions were on the fringe, extreme, and reek of radicalism. We now know that Jared Loughner had previous contact with Gabrielle Giffords, as early as 2007. He attended a rally she held and did not appreciate the way she responded to a question he posed concerning politics without language. She replied in Spanish. Jared Loughner acted in the midst of a heated political environment, where one side has been implying, beneath a veil of rhetoric, that it is okay to target, aim, and shoot at political opponents that are demonized in the media, and in television attack ads considered the enemy.
The blame may not rest with Sarah Palin, but the atmosphere in which she politicized absolutely everything not Republican or Tea Party with highly vitriolic hyperbole is symptomatic of a much deeper problem.. Indeed, BOTH sides are guilty of espousing over the top rhetoric, no matter how less inciteful progressives may be, it doesn’t negate the guilt pouring from conservatives as evidenced by the defensive stance they’ve adopted.
Jared Loughner, from what we know so far, has no known coherent political ideology, and even so, mental illness does not make a person inherently violent. According to friends, he has a twisted sense of humor, and loved to delve in conspiracy theories. He was obsessed with 2012, mind control, language control, illiteracy, the truth about 9/11, and the US currency, which he considered “useless” without a gold standard.
From his youtube page:
I attended school: Thornydale elementary,Tortolita Middle School, Mountain View Highschool, Northwest Aztec Middle College, and Pima Community College.
My favorite interest was reading, and I studied grammar. Conscience dreams were a great study in college!
(*My idiom: I could coin the moment!*)
Pass me the strings!
I had favorite books: Animal Farm, Brave New World, The Wizard Of OZ, Aesop Fables, The Odyssey, Alice Adventures Into Wonderland, Fahrenheit 451, Peter Pan, To Kill A Mockingbird, We The Living, Phantom Toll Booth, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Pulp,Through The Looking Glass, The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha, The Old Man And The Sea, Gulliver’s Travels, Mein Kampf, The Republic, and Meno.
Loughner may be ruled a sociopath, but until then I am remiss to call him insane. From his ramblings, he is clearly a man who considers himself intelligent, but with a complete inability to know that to be intelligent is to be humbled by the knowledge of how much you don’t know.
Sadly, there are mentally disturbed people everywhere. Of those that are political, their views cross the whole of the political spectrum. Both the right and the left have cast a kind of rhetoric that can be considered rhetoricalin its calls to take up arms, engage in hand to hand combat, etc. The fact is, both the Right and the Left have used graphics and symbols and targets on maps to make a point. So regardless of Mr. Loughner’s political affiliation, he bought a gun, unsheathed it, and shot 20 people at point blank range, killing a Federal Judge, a 9 year old little girl, and 4 others, including the gravely wounded Gabrielle Giffords. He can’t blame anyone, save the voices in his head, but himself. Althogh the atmosphere leading up to the shooting puts much of the focus and spotlight on the politics of the right, we all share a piece of the personal responsibility pie, by either holding others or ourselves accountable for our words.
We have always been a society that favors personal responsibility over playing the victim. Should we not keep in mind that advertising fear and intimidation, or strategies designed to call people to action, or to take up arms are much easier to succeed when one of a parties primary platforms is reduced gun control. Jan Brewer, the Governor of Arizona, signed Senate Bill 1088 into law on April 10, 2010 which allows anyone, 21 or older, to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. What we should be discussing, as a society, is how to prevent the mentally ill from gaining access to firearms.
My condolences go out to the families affected by this terrible tragedy. Despite the rhetoric from either side, the facts, opinions, speculations, motives, paranoid interjections, etc., six people are left dead at the hands of one individual. When families are in pain due to loss and victims remain hospitalized, we all need to take a step back and come to the conclusion that we could all stand to be a lot more civil in general.