I keep saying that the political system of the US is in chaos and every day something new happens to further emphasize this position. I think we’re all still reeling from the emotional blow of seeing a US Congresswoman brutally gunned down.
The only other time I can remember a politician being attacked in recent memory was the George W. Bush shoe throwing incident. That moment stuck in my mind because it made me absolutely furious that the secret service would allow somebody to get close enough to perform such an attack on the president.
Now, I have always been a fairly vocal detractor of Bush. I still believe the Patriot Act to be a slap in the face of all the veterans who died throughout history to protect US freedoms. However, the sight of Bush dodging those thrown shoes filled me with fury.
After the initial shock of the moment, and in light of the fact that no harm had been done, I remember some of my conservative friends found the moment to be amusing and that they were even impressed by the president’s agility. I hope that they accurately remember my reaction of anger that the moment happened at all.
The reason I remember this was because I felt a sincere fury at seeing Bush assaulted. It was a sincere fury because it did not come from my mind, but bubbled up from my heart. Sure, I might have called for Bush’s legal impeachment in times of extreme frustration during his presidency, but the thought that anything bad could befall a sitting president of ANY country makes me physically ill.
This is a serious issue that goes beyond simple politics.
The various propaganda machines that go into play whenever the mindset of the general public must be molded have been working overtime on this Giffords shooting incident. Currently, the only thing they’re focusing on is the Bullseye map and the “Don’t retreat, reload” comments that Palin has made. However, this debate goes beyond two rather insignificant lapses of judgement on Palin’s part, and cuts to the core of an overall culture of intolerance and frustration with our government.
To be clear, my frustration with the Tea Party has been going on for several months. I had a friend who is a very dedicated Tea Party follower who insisted on forwarding me much of his Tea Party propaganda. The big issue for the Tea Party in terms of the congressional districts of Arizona is immigration, and the propaganda that I was being sent was extremely anti-Hispanic.
Essentially, I am in possession of proof that Tea Party followers have been campaigning to demonize Hispanic people by portraying them as thieves and drug dealers in pursuit of tougher immigration laws. A Tea Party follower sent me this propaganda to try to CONVINCE ME of the correctness of his position.
But he overlooked a basic fact.
My wife is of Hispanic descent.
My daughter is of Hispanic descent.
Is there anybody out there that can rationally say that I would be wrong to bristle in rage over somebody demonizing my daughter?
Now, my wife and daughter are here 100% legally, but still an anti-Hispanic attitude concerns me deeply. I have already personally borne witness to abuses of power on the part of law enforcement officials because they suspected a Hispanic looking person might be an illegal. These are violations of the civil rights of people who are residing legally in this country. No civil rights violations should ever be encouraged or tolerated.
Now, I realize that such pieces of propaganda cannot be tied directly to Tea Party leaders such as Sara Palin. But the Tea Party is her group, and if the people on the fringes of her group are sending out propaganda like that, it’s her responsibility to stop it if she doesn’t approve of it, or if she understands that it is socially irresponsible. The fact that Palin doesn’t seem to be inclined to address these attacks indicates either indifference or incompetence, neither of which are traits of a strong leader. (and I haven’t received any Liberal produced anti-Hispanic propaganda in case you were wondering)
Despite repeated polite requests to not receive any more anti-Hispanic or other Tea Party propaganda, these emails didn’t stop and I eventually had to cut off ties with this friend I had known for more than 10 years.
In addition to this email business, I’ve actually seen a Tea Party rally. They had one not a few blocks from my house in Chippewa Falls. I went out of curiosity and listened to it for a while. Now, I know that Palin sites her followers right to “exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies.” Yes, that’s true. But you don’t have the right to incite a riot. My overall impression of the rally was that it was essentially based on anger. This was a stark contrast to positively themed campaigns based on concepts like “hope” and “change” that have been prominently successful in recent times. It caused me to ask myself, when has anger ever produced anything positive? When has anger ever been productive?
Back in March, Congresswoman Giffords complained about how her headquarters had been vandalized, the windows broken in, etc. She’s the first to admit that you can’t prove a connection to the Tea Party, however this was just one of many acts of overt aggression that occurred during her heated campaign against a Tea Party candidate. Giffords is an experienced politician, and she said that the violent rhetoric was worse in this campaign than anything else she had ever experienced.
So when people are connecting Palin to a culture of violence they’re not only referring to a couple of unreasonable tweets and a single target graphic on a facebook page, they’re talking about a deliberate and long-lasting campaign in which rage is intentionally stoked amongst the mass of Tea Party followers over the course of many months. I think it’s revealing that the majority of the US population instantly accepted the explanation that a Tea Party member was responsible (true or not) for a mass shooting. That, in itself, is a further indication beyond Palin’s “gun sights” graphic and her other violent rhetoric, that the Tea Party is known for contributing to a culture of violence and intolerance. Nobody came out to suggest that Giffords’ shooter an Obama follower for example. That’s so inherently absurd that it didn’t even cross anyone’s mind. But instantly upon the release of the news, people started thinking Tea Party even before they knew the political position of the victim.
I’ve personally had run-ins with several radical Tea Party followers over the last few months. The ones I met were furious individuals who were prone to threaten physical violence if you dared to disagree with them. My question is, if they have a strong, truthful philosophical position, why do they feel the need to beat people into accepting it?
It’s a culture of bullies and intimidation. That culture existed in Arizona and it exists elsewhere in the US.
Certainly, we can never be sure what motivated the lunatic who shot Giffords. But answer me this, if there were a Ku Klux Klan rally and the next day an African American person was shot under unrelated circumstances, do you really think the Klan could plausibly deny their ideology had nothing to do with the event? That’s like Al-Qaeda getting mad about being blamed for terrorist acts they didn’t claim responsibility for.
From my experience with Tea Party members, I believe yes, they are cultivating a culture of hatred. And in Palin’s recent retort to this accusation which unfortunately includes language that could be taken as anti-Semitic, I see a show of defiance and continued aggression rather than an appeal for peace and mutual understanding. She’s always the first to declare that she’s not responsible for anything. Again, is that the trait of a leader?
A recent argument has surfaced that violent political rhetoric is commonplace, and yes Obama’s unfortunate “knife to a gunfight” comment is on par with Palin’s regrettable “don’t retreat, reload” comment, but the similarities between the two political figures end there. The main difference is that Obama was never at the head of a anger based multi-month political campaign. Palin was, and the above video shows Giffords complaining about it.
So, is it unfair to connect Palin to the Giffords shooting?
Fair or not, it seems to have happened, and I wonder if Palin will forever be associated with this event. I think that’s extremely probable and I don’t think Palin has a right to feel victimized about it. If you work to create a culture of intolerance, you will not be tolerated. Or as Congresswoman Giffords says, “if you put cross hairs over a political district, there will be consequences.”
A culture of civilized debate must be the ambition of every leader, not cultures of hatred.