Posts Tagged ‘Michelle Bachman’

Thoughts on the Giffords Shooting

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Here’s Joe Scarborough on the Gabbrielle Giffords shooting.

The discussion about civility is important, but I connect even more with the personal story of how he and his wife felt when they heard the news.

My response was similar. When I first heard the news, I thought to myself: the thing that we have feared for so long has come to fruition. Sharron Angle’s “2nd Amendment Remedies” have finally caught up with the nation. Watching the video of Giffords talking about how her office window was shattered after her vote on the health care bill  just reinforced that belief:

our office corner has really become an area where the Tea Party movement congregates and the rhetoric is incredibly heated. Not just the calls, but the e-mails, the slurs..things have really gotten spun up.

 

I watched Giffords talk in the interview about how Palin targeted her district with gun crosshairs. Her father was asked after her shooting if she had any enemies and responded “Yes, the entire Tea Party.” All of this just added to the sense that the shooting was a result of the overheated political climate we have seen in this country since Obama was elected. 

As more info came to light, it became clear that the truth was slightly more complicated than that: Jared Loughner had been obsessed with Giffords since 2007; he was not involved with any organized political movement, and the philosophies he espoused didn’t really fit neatly into any of our usual political debates.

Whether or not the overheated rhetoric created a climate that gave Loughner the go ahead in his demented brain to act on his long held feelings may never be known. What is clear, however, is that the discourse has become poisonous, and that we’re lucky that we only have a few broken windows, empty death threats and some swastikas on black congressmen’s signs to show for it.

While people on the left have tried to blame Sarah Palin for the Giffords shooting, others on the right have played the victim, protesting that they and the Tea Party have been falsely accused and that Democrats also used to say mean things about President Bush while he was president. While I understand the basic principle that it’s not nice to say mean things about national leaders, this is clearly a false equivalency. Consider the fact that death threats against Obama after his inauguration spiked by over 400 percent from George Bush levels; or the fact that the last time we had a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President, the doomsday rhetoric was also off the charts, and the result was that someone killed 168 people and blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City.

I don’t mind a good partisan fight, but when you have a whole group of people who believe that the President of the United States is a “secret muslim” Manchurian Candidate… and you have an even bigger group of people who can’t tell the difference between “tyranny” and losing two elections…and those same people have a tendency towards gun fetishes and a heightened sense of victimhood… and they are manipulated into believing that the biggest threat to their “freedom” is giving health care to people, this all adds up to a volatile mix. The worst thing you can do in this situation is to have community and political leaders fan the flames of that fire.

I’m not one to go on a big tirade against Sarah Palin for her ill advised gun crosshairs targeting map. It’s pretty outrageous, but I don’t think it’s worth spending too much time hyperventilating about it. Still, a few basic common sense rules might be in order here: It’s irresponsible to tweet to your supporters (many of whom are gun fetishists with an overwrought sense of victimhood): “Commonsense Conservatives and lovers of America: don’t retreat–Instead RELOAD,” as Sarah Palin did just after health care passed. It’s irresponsible to tell people to come to a rally against Obama’s policies “armed and dangerous” as Michelle Bachman did in 2010. It is way beyond the pale to suggest that if Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama aren’t thrown out of office, people on the Right might have to turn to an armed overthrow of the government, as the Republican’s best funded 2010 Senate candidate did, and if you are tempted to bring your semi-automatic weapon to the protest across the street from where the president’s speaking “because that’s your right,” you might just want to reconsider. 

As Bill Clinton said on the 15th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing:

What we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or reduce our passion from the positions we hold – but that the words we use really do matter, because there’s this vast echo chamber and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike.

So again, this isn’t an argument that all people who sympathise with the Tea Party are violent thugs, or that they shouldn’t fight for what they believe in. It is an argument that, in this charged political environment, leaders have a responsibility to think about the ramifications of what they say before they say it and make their case for a particular policy without resorting to incitement.

My sense of this is that, now that they got their way, some on the right will tone down the rhetoric. It’s my bet that, now that they’ve actually won a national election for the first time in 6 years, the government looks more like the elected representatives of the country than a “tyrannical regime” bent on imposing socialism on the country. But violent rhetoric is a tricky thing. Once you’ve taken that genie out of the bottle, it is hard to get it back in.

We all hope for the best here, but as the events of two weeks ago show, we need to prepare for the worst as well.