Notebook, 18 January 2011: My Moment of Silence is Over

Apart from one post regarding the false equivalence evident in the commentary of the Tucson shootings, I’ve thought hard about the political climate, and my (hopefully) minuscule contribution to its tone.

And I can’t escape the conclusion that, even as I decried the violent rhetoric of the right, I helped contribute to the incivility. Even in that post, where I twice tried to make the case that what the right was doing equated to terrorist rhetoric.

Not that my point was entirely off base.

Violence generated through a desire to gain political power and/or effect policy is terrorism, by definition and I was right about that. However, it’s not that simple.

Sarah Palin’s troubles in all this began the moment someone remembered that her campaign had place crosshairs over Gabrielle Giffords’ district, and she can’t walk that one back. Does this mean that she intended Loughner? No. Does it mean that she, and the right wing crazies on Fox and talk radio are to blame for what happened? Perhaps. Loughner seems, at this point, to have suffered from an obsession with “government control” and to the extent that the right fed his delusions and linked it to the second amendment, and to the extent that enabled Loughner to arm himself as he did, they are culpable.

But that’s a mild blame, and by far the smaller of their two major sins.

“I May Not Be A Rocket Scientist, But I Play One On TV”

Where the right really goes off the rails is in their willingness to make whatever shit up they want. And they do this constantly. (Note the present tense in that sentence. More on that later.) Is the left happy that these shootings occurred, as Rush Limbaugh claims? He has the gall to claim that I’m happy that six people are dead, including a nine year old girl. That’s an outrageous lie wildly inaccurate. In Glenn Beck’s twisted logic, I’m the threat to the republic, but not that man or woman willing to engage in gunplay for political purposes.

Keith Olbermann went on to list more examples of these. The right has been busy both trying to claim that they’re as much a victim as those in Tucson, while trying to pin the blame on the left. Nobody who already doesn’t want to be fooled is, however, and it’s abundantly clear to all which side has been playing with fire.

However, I don’t believe Sarah Palin desired what happened in Tucson. I don’t believe that was ever her aim goal, nor do I feel she is happy at the prospect of a possible armed uprising. Giving the matter the least bit of honest reflection leads one to the conclusion that even the most politically obtuse operative in her camp would consider Jared Lee Loughner nothing but a PR disaster. Witness the speed with which that crosshairs map disappeared from her site. Another over-the-top position coming from Sarah Palin, she’s the victim, and that the republic “will be destroyed” if she isn’t taken seriously.

Evidently, America’s future all depends on Sarah Palin.

To my mind, the propensity of the right to flat out lie to the public, to just go ahead and make up whatever talking points they want is the far greater error of the right. Not only on policy or in political “debate,” but in the fact that this sends the signal that another limit has been removed: the limit of truth, the restraint of dealing with facts and reality. Politics is an emotional undertaking which operates on imprecise symbol and on gut reaction, and when reliance on hard information and true fact is abandoned, any act becomes implicitly enabled. This is, to my mind, the first and best reason why religion should be, must be, left out of politics. In God’s name, any atrocity becomes permissible, and history bears this out again and again (here, here and here, some examples off the top of my head).

We still see the GOP doing this. Eric Cantor’s claim that democrats are in control of the government is just as much a lie as Limbaugh’s and Beck’s. The truth is, neither side controls the federal government at this point. This is nothing more than political spin, an attempt to duck some of the responsibility for the coming debt ceiling vote.

Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, John Boehner and other shock jocks and bloggers of the right have yet to even acknowledge any error.

On the left, even here, we’re guilty of mischaracterizations. I called them terrorists, for instance, and this was wrong as well. Someone here should have called me out on this. Where the right goes over the line is that they have championed Second Amendment rights and gone out of their way, for political benefit, to foster paranoia among gun owners.

The paranoia was unwarranted. There was no talk of gun control measures until Tucson. Let’s be clear on this, left and right. Events have brought the issue back to the fore even though employment, the deficit, the economy, health care and two wars still preoccupy thousands of families in America. Rachel has made it abundantly clear that these kinds of shootings are far from extraordinary. I get the impression from her that they occur every few months somewhere in America, but there was silence on this in all quarters.

The left didn’t put gun control back on the table. Jared Loughner did.

The right, saving John McCain, hasn’t made the mea culpa statement which we’ve seen from those on the left, and perhaps it is because they feel, like Sarah Palin evidently does, that they don’t have the political space to do so. That’s just my guess. Pure speculation on my part. Palin was unlucky that the person she targeted with that crosshair turned out to be a victim, and it is revealing of her fitness for office (any office) that she has chosen to try to paint herself as a victim here (I wish I had her bank account) rather than admit her responsibility, however indirect.

I’m not a victim of the Tucson shooting. I may have helped cause it, though, and I resolve not to do so again. I have always, and will continue, to reserve and restrict my right of protest to political speech and my vote.

In Europe, I’d be a Social Democrat. Here in America, I’m just a red-socialist-lefty. I believe in democracy and in economic and social justice. I believe know that government has a role to play in shaping American society—I’ve seen it work with my own eyes. I think that free markets need to behave like markets and not mobs of cutthroats. I know that we can do this without violating “the spirit of the founders,” because they gave us permission to do just that. It says so in the constitution. I’ll argue the facts, as best I know them, because they support my positions.

Even as we see, today, republicans utter new untruths in the health care repeal debate. I won’t call them terrorists, even though repeal puts thousands of lives at risk, but what they’re doing is pretty bad.

They’re lying to voters and they know it. They should stop, though I agree they may be trapped by their own rhetoric and their blatant pandering.

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