January 8, 2011

What did we expect?

By now, everyone knows about the terrorist attack in Tucson that killed six and critically wounded a member of the US Congress.  And everyone has been reminded of Sarah Palin's hit list.

At the time the hit list was originally posted, I found it in extremely poor taste and wondered how Palin or her supporters could find it acceptable.  We were in a state of war, for one thing.  We had soldiers dying overseas.  It seemed to border on reckless, but the country took it as just another bit of Palin's over-the-top political rabble rousing.  "It's only Sarah," we said.  We'd come to expect that from her.

Worse, we'd come to expect it from that side of the aisle.  Months before Palin posted her map, a few zealots showed up at a political fundraiser in Phoenix with handguns. One carried an assault rifle.  They weren't breaking any law; they were simply exercising their first and second amendment rights.

At some point, an invisible line was crossed.  Civility, reason, and graciousness were tossed out as unnecessary trappings of the weak.  Intelligence and education were deemed luxuries of the elite.  "Real Americans" no longer needed to respect or listen to people who disagreed with them.  Real Americans were going to take back their country.  Ready, aim...

If I, or anyone I know, had posted a hit list map with gunsight crosshairs on it in March of 2010, we'd be behind bars, under severe interrogation, and charged with serious crimes within days.  Hours, perhaps.  And I don't necessarily disagree with that.

Why, then, did the country shake our heads and shrug when Palin did it?  What did we expect would come of it?

6 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

She is a maverick in all the worst sense of that word. I can only hope this drives her out of sight and out of politics, but I think my hope is in vain.

Have you seen Keith Olberman's take? Amazing man with a gift for words. His report pointed out that the last time such violent rhetoric made the rounds, it was from the left and no more acceptable then as it is now.

There are laws against inciting/fighting words. But then again, Bush admitted to committing a war crime (in his book) and nothing's been done with that.

The legal double standard is disgusting.

jjdebenedictis said...

Palin is a spectacle; she makes a great reality TV star. And other than admitting she's pretty, that's the only compliment I can pay her.

This tragedy is horrible, but given it can't be undone, I hope it acts as the catalyst to quell the vicious, thoughtless, knee-jerk antagonism that typifies American politics now.

Blogless Troll said...

I try not to get caught up in the Muppet Show politics on TV so I'd never even heard about this hit list. It doesn't surprise me, but this is how both sides keep their fans charged up. Keith Olberman is as much of a schmuck puppet as Sarah Palin.

I'm not buying the whole Palin made me do it meme floating around, no matter how repulsive she is. The reports are this guy was a nihilistic nutjob who's ideology was basically "words have no meaning." I don't see how someone who thinks words have no meaning is influenced by rhetoric.

To me, the most disgusting part of this whole thing is the sleight of hand (I guess it would be sleight of rhetoric) that insinuates that the life of an elected official is more important than the lives of "ordinary" people. That's the most dangerous thing being exploited here. Equal protection under the law is kind of a joke as it is. Those who would rush to push through new laws based on an emotional knee jerk reaction to this shooting might kill it completely.

Oops, I said kill. I hope that violent rhetoric doesn't influence anyone to do something illegal.

Peter Dudley said...

I can't see anything substantive changing because of this shooting, unlike, say, the way the Brady Bill affected gun sales. The First Amendment and Second Amendment should still trump everything, I think, because I agree with Benjamin Franklin's statement that "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." (The head of the TSA should be forced to write that ten thousand times on a blackboard.)

I'm just asking for a little sanity and common sense to tone down the us-versus-them rhetoric. Today, people pick their political side and then spend all their energy defending their position and no energy trying to think things through.

I was wondering when this divisiveness really started. Palin's hit list map? The Swift Boat Veterans? Gingrich's Javer-like pursuit of a Clinton impeachment? Well, no. The 1960s were worse, and the violent rhetoric came from the far left. And of course, McCarthy in the 1950s. I guess it really goes way back to John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Probably back to Ugg and Oog in the cave.

But you'd think maybe we'd have evolved a little bit by then.

Blogless Troll said...

This is what is was referring to. Agree with everything else. Except that Ugg clearly had the superior argument.

Peter Dudley said...

Hmm. Dunno. I think I agree that such a law is not necessary and creates a huge gray area in political free speech. What constitutes threatening language? Could such a law be used to limit or eliminate dissension?

Though I kind of like the idea of such a law for judges. At least, at first glance.

And am I surprised you'd take Ugg's side? Not one bit.