A Sense of Rage.
The top question on Facebook yesterday was “Is Sarah Palin to blame” for the recent shooting at the Arizona town-hall meeting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, in which 6 people were killed and 14, including Giffords, were shot. The answer, of course, is that she’s not to blame. However, the rising vitriol taking hold across the political landscape has changed perceptions of opposing viewpoints into clandestine plots to tear the fabric of American society apart. Whether or not that vitriol led to the assassination plot enacted by a mentally disturbed Jared Lee Loughner, Palin, like many politicians, has not helped calm those fires.
“We’ll aim for these races and many others,” Palin wrote on her Facebook when first posting her graphic targeting Democratic races. “This is just the first salvo in a fight to elect people across the nation who will bring common sense to Washington.”
The Palin described “Bullseye” used by her politic action committee, SarahPAC, to mark districts of “Obamacare-lovin incumbent seats,” including Giffords’ district, has led to considerable criticism both at the time of its creation and now in the aftermath of the tragedy. Giffords stated when Palin first posted her target board that Palin should be aware that unintended consequences could come about as a result of her actions.
Democrats have come out in force criticizing the cross hair graphics and rhetoric exhibited during the election season. Palin’s aid, in turn, has said the graphic was never meant to be a gun’s sight.
While it seems likely that the cross hairs were just that, it is undoubtedly the case that Palin did not want to see this type of a tragedy. It is also the case that very few people want to see this type of political activism, whether by the mentally insane or ardent defender of their image of America, begin to take root here.
As a reporter and watchdog covering politics over the last five years, I have watched the political rhetoric continually escalate on talk-show radio, political rallies and yes, even on the floors of the our legislative halls.
During the last elections, my coverage of events seemed littered by the statements that seemed bombastic in nature and, if taken to heart, could provide the seed for someone wielding little more than a thread of sanity to act in a violent way to save our great nation.
Legislators increasingly use statements, such as Tom Tancredo’s assertion that President Barack Obama was the most dangerous threat to the United States or Rep. Michele Bachmann’s proclamation that Obama’s move to enact healthcare reform could lead to a nation of slaves, to drum up their base in an effort for their party to take political power.
“I think this describes so well where we are right now,” Bachmann said before reading an excerpt from C.S. Lewis: “‘Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under a robber baron than under omnipotent moral busybodies … .’”
This is not to say that the liberal left does not also have its fair share of hyperbolic statements that could incite the masses; it does; I just happened to have been reporting on the other two events. But, whether from the left or the right, the fact of the matter is that if I wasn’t a jaded journalist I might believe someone who told me George Bush caused 9-11 or that Obama was trying to begin a tyranny. If I believed that, would it be my responsibility to act? Of course it would. And if I thought all of the chips were stacked against me and the government wasn’t on my side, well, what options do I have.
As a journalist, I work to be fair and accurate in my reporting. It is my goal to leave my own biases inherent in anyone behind when I sit down to write. I personally feel that same type of demeanor presented by our politicians would help calm turbulent political waters.
That politics has become an industry has not helped to create middle-of-the-road, best-solution-oriented campaign winners or reduce the vitriol. Instead, money comes from those funders who are adamant about their beliefs and drive 527 advertisements and organizations to support candidates that are proponents of those beliefs.
The idea that we could stop the inflating rhetoric and return to a mythical time when Democrats and Republicans did not claim each other to be fascists or communists or make allusions to Nazi Germany may be just that, a myth. However, it is clear that for the public to truly understand an issue, politicians should restructure their debate to calmly discuss ideas and issues, not visions of apocalyptic chaos.
But perhaps this drive to exploit and damage an opponent seems so heavily ingrained in modern politics that even in the call for mourning the divided electorate is unable to set politics aside.
“The line we will see for the next few weeks is going to be that rhetoric and tone of the message from the Tea Party is responsible for this attack… The hard left is going to try and silence the Tea Party movement by blaming us for this,” said Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips in defending his group from democratic accusations, according to CBS News.
“In a decent world, we could all take a moment to mourn for those killed by a liberal lunatic. Political civility is long since dead and the left will not let us do this,” Phillips continued. “The left is coming and will hit us hard on this. We need to push back harder with the simple truth. The shooter was a liberal lunatic. Emphasis on both words.”
It remains unclear if the man who shot a Democratic congresswoman and believed the Bush-run government was responsible for 9-11 held any discernible ideological position; however, what is clear is that others have worked to engender a sense of rage in the voting populace that is reaching boiling point.
Perhaps it is time to turn down the heat.
Joseph Boven is a freelance reporter, writer and blogger. His work has been cited by such organizations as Politico, Huffington Post, the Atlantic Monthly Journal online, and The Nation online among others. He continues to report here in Colorado and enjoys it far more than his time as a commercial fisherman.