Before going into the commentary, let me please extend my prayers and support to all of the victims of the horrific shooting incident that unfolded midday this past Saturday in Tucson. It is a terrible, terrible set of circumstances that allowed one lone crazy to cause so much grief and pain. We should also be thankful for the brave individuals that immediately took action to suppress the gunman and provided immediate first aid to those that were injured. News reports indicate that these brave Americans probably kept the death and injury toll from going much higher.
Violence, for political change or any purpose, is never the answer for three reasons. First and foremost by far, the taking of another human life for political gain, or just about any other reason, is never acceptable. No one should have that power or incentive to do so. Second, usually violence begets more violence and senseless killing and maiming for no reason. And finally, violence of this sort many times results in further government repression, suppressing the very freedom that a deranged violent person might have thought they were fighting for.
Although it looks like this was an act of a lone gunman that apparently has acted and behaved in less than stable ways over the past few years, according to news reports, the inevitable debate is underway as to whether the heated rhetoric in our political realm contributed to his actions. No one will probably ever know the answer to that question but maybe it is time that we start looking at ourselves and asking ourselves, the American citizenry, and not this allegedly unstable individual, for answers. Maybe we should ask ourselves if we have allowed this heated, bitter political rhetoric to grow and grow so much that we ourselves might be to blame for the shootings in Tucson.
Before you brush this possibility off as nonsense, consider the following questions. If you are a Republican, ask yourself:
– Did you object when the Bush administration branded non supporters of the Iraq war as being unpatriotic for their honest difference opinion with the administration on the merits and legality of invading Iraq?
– Did you object when Republican leaders used the image of rifle cross hairs superimposed on their opponents faces in the run up to the November elections as a marketing tool, an image that takes on particular uneasiness, given the Saturday shootings?
– Did you object when Congresswoman Giffords opponent in the past election used an M-16 shooting event for a campaign strategy?
– Did you object over the years when Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck crossed the line from intelligent, civil political debate into personal degradation of political opponents?
If you are a Republican and answered “no” to any of the questions above, maybe you should ask yourself if you contributed in anyway to what happened in Tucson.
If you are a Democrat, ask yourself the following questions:
– Did you object when Americans, with honest and legitimate concerns and who were in opposition to Obama’s health care reform legislation, were frequently branded racists and associated with the Ku Klux Klan by Democrats in Congress including Congressman Grayson, Congressman Rangel, Congresswoman Lee, and others?
– Did you object when Congressman Alan Grayson called Republicans “knuckle dragging Neanderthals?”
– Did you object when an Obama administration czar publicly and on tape called all Republicans “a__h___s?”
– Did you object when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the third ranking political leader in this country, said that those Americans opposed to Obama Care were unpatriotic even though their oppositon was honest and based on legitimate concerns?
– Did you object when former Democratioc Congressman Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania said of Republican Rick Scott, candidate for govenror of Florida, “Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him. Put him up against the wall and shoot him.”
– Did you object when the President stated that his side would bring a gun to the political table if the other borught a knife?
– Did you object through the years when Olberman, Matthews, and Maddow crossed the line from intelligent, civil debate into personal degradation of political opponents?
If you are a Democrat and answered “no” to any of the questions above, maybe you should ask yourself if you contributed in any way to what happened in Tucson.
Until we all start to object to the vicious and personal political rhetoric, it will not stop. Most politicians’ only goal is to get re-elected and if this type of viciousness “energizes their base” and gets them re-elected, they will continue to do it. Most cable news shows only goal is ratings and energizing their base of viewers. This behavior splits the country to such a point that getting elected becomes the end game, not the means to an end.
As a result, we as citizens end up with such animosity towards our neighbors, we end up electing people that cannot solve the issues facing the nation. We end up electing them because they are from our side. Never mind that they could not solve a first grade problem, “we won,” our side got elected. Maybe that explains why the war on drugs has never been “won”, why our public schools continue to fail, why we still have no national energy policy, why we still have leaky borders, why we still do not have the upper hand in the war on terror, why we still have a very shaky economy with whole industries decimated and high unemployment, why our national debt is skyrocketing, etc. But our side won the election, isn’t that good? Not if either side never solves anything
Consider the first of two quotes from George Orwell’s doomsday for freedom novel “1984:”
“This is not to say that either the conduct of war, or the prevailing attitude towards it, has become less bloodthirsty or more chivalrous. On the contrary, war hysteria is continuous and universal in all countries, and such acts as raping, looting, the slaughter of children, the reduction of whole populations to slavery, and reprisals against prisoners which extend even to boiling and burying alive, are looked upon as normal, and, when they are committed by one’s own side and not by the enemy, meritorious.”
Now consider the same quote with a few words changed to describe the political horror we are currently enduring:
“This is not to say that either the conduct of politics, or the prevailing attitude towards it, has become less bloodthirsty or more chivalrous. On the contrary, politics is continuous and universal in all parts of the country, and such acts as name calling, personal degradation, accusations of unpatriotism, sexual degradation, verbal assaults, the reduction of whole groups of fellow citizens with opposing views to idiocy and reprisals against common Americans with opposing views, are looked upon as normal, and, when they are committed by one’s own side and not by the enemy, meritorious.”
When the other political side is slandered or degraded, it is now viewed as normal and meritorious. When the same is done to our political side, these are unspeakable affronts.
Our political class has shown that they are not capable of acting liking adults, debating issues and resolving issues based on intelligent discussion, debate, and compromise because we have not demanded that they do so. It is more important, politically, that our side win. Until that happens we will continue to live in a version of Orwell’s world where the winning of elections is all that matters. Consider another Orwell quote that follows almost immediately after the “1984” quote above”
“The primary aim of modern warfare is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standards of living.”
Substitute the word “politics” for “warfare” above and you can see that Orwell was right. We have allowed politics to divide us as a nation, using up much of our energy and resources to fight each other, which has resulted in more hate and has not raised the standards of living. Worse case, it contributed to the senseless violence in Tucson this past weekend.
Can we learn anything? Maybe we should do a better job of asking ourselves whether this is the kind of politics and world we want for ourselves and our families. A world where you are an idiot if you disagree with me, a genius if you agree. Just ask yourself, maybe if we did check our emotions and start to respect our diversity, there will not be any future Tucson-like tragedies. Maybe then our political processes would finally elect problem solvers and not the types of non-problem solvers we have elected for the past few decades. Just ask yourself…