The Arizona Massacre: Lesson #1 – Violent and Hateful Rhetoric Must Stop

Before I begin this rant, I want to send out my deepest sympathies and good thoughts to the people who were hurt in Saturday’s bloodbath in Tucson, Arizona , as well as the families and friends of those killed, including and especially the nine year old girl who was born on September 11, 2001. I have never met Gabby Giffords, but I know people who know her, and they all portray her as an incredibly conscientious public servant who truly cares about her constituents. Not that such a thing makes her better than the others who lost their lives or were injured this past weekend; but being a public servant unfortunately makes such people targets in the eyes of nutcases.  

Yes, it’s likely she was targeted because she was a Congresswoman. It seems that Bush 41-appointed chief federal judge John Roll just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was a friend of Gabby’s and lived nearby, so he decided to drop by, because that’s what public servants do.

But last weekend’s tragedy has to teach all of us a few lessons, which I will talk about over a series of columns. I’m afraid that, if we don’t learn them, we will experience more tragedies like this one, to the point that we’ll think such things are a part of politics, and we cannot allow that.

Lesson #1: The violent rhetoric in our politics has gotten way out of hand, and it should be shunned by everyone. Failure to do so should disqualify you from political office.

If you’re about my age (52) or close to it, then you know there has been a lot of violence in the political arena over the past 50 years. But this latest bit of violence is different from the others in a very key way, and it should worry all of us, but especially the Republican Party. At the very least, it should give them pause, and cause them to re-evaluate their rhetoric. 

(The rhetoric is not the exclusive domain of the far right, by the way. I’ll have something to say about the left’s rhetoric, too, later on.)

I went back through history this weekend, to previous political assassinations, and never before in our history has it been even possible to credibly tie a political assassin to a major political party, even by inference.  By “credibly,” I mean, when taking into account the facts of a situation, it was and still is actually plausible for the assassin to have been tied to the Tea Party movement, and the Republican Party. 

Just for the record, I’m not saying it was the case. In fact, after reading this clown’s (I don’t use such people’s names, because that’s what they want us to do) babbling on the Internet, I’m convinced that he was more mentally ill than anything. 

But the point is, the political assassinations and attempted assassinations in this country’s past (and there have been more than most people think) have largely been committed by lone nut jobs, or foreign nationals, attempting to influence our politics. A few have been attempted by organized political factions, but never large factions within a major political party. 

Thirty years ago, no one ever considered Reagan’s attempted assassin to be a closet Democrat; it was assumed that the guy was a nut. The Kennedys supposed assassins were not tied to the Republican Party, and no one even considered that possibility (although perhaps they should have, but that's another issue). The two psychos who tried to kill Gerald Ford were not considered part of any political party or machine.  The guy who shot George Wallace (only after being frustrated in trying to kill President Nixon, apparently) wasn’t even considered to be part of a major political movement, let alone a party.

But this time, the possibility that the killer might have had ties to what the lazy-ass media considers to be a major political movement, the Tea Party, which in turn has very strong ties to the Republican Party, was, and still is actually plausible. I know, I'm repeating myself, but this is important. 

Society has changed in many ways in recent years, and politically speaking, many of them are bad. But the worst aspect of the change in our political discourse is the domination of the extremes on both sides of the aisle. Yes, lefties, you’re a part of this, too. But as irritating and counterproductive as the extreme left has become, the extreme right is downright dangerous.

Of course, why wouldn’t they be? The assholes who make up the far right wing “base” of the Republican Party include Birchers, members of the KKK and various “Citizens Councils” and the like, and let’s face it; the ignorance coming out of them is mind-numbing. And if the “right” (in this case, meaning “correct”) person says something, no matter how wrong it is, these assholes believe it without question.  What’s worse is that otherwise reasonable Republicans are so afraid to confront these assholes, for fear of losing their vote.

I’m really sick of hearing Republican right wingers who have spent the last ten or more years, at least, standing by and listening to rhetoric about “Second Amendment remedies” and appeals to their constituents to “reload” without comment or condemnation suddenly feeling something akin to “remorse” over the massacre in Tucson Saturday.

When Sarah Palin places targets and crosshairs over certain politicians (you know, like Gabrielle Giffords, for example) on her Facebook page, she doesn’t get to claim shock when someone actually shoots one of those people. 

When Sharron Angle calls for “Second Amendment” remedies to the nation’s problems, she should be condemned by everyone who considers violence to be an inappropriate “remedy” to any domestic problem. The fact that she wasn't means the politicians who kept silent don't get to play dumb now and their crocodile tears are insufficient to absolve them. 

When Jesse Kelly, Giffords’ Republican opponent in the last election, held fundraisers in which donors were treated to the chance to shoot an M-16, what is the symbolism to be taken from that, especially since Gabby was very much in favor of gun rights? And where were the Republicans now expressing "remorse" for this shooting when he was doing such a thing? 

Does anyone really think this shooting could only be coincidence? Isn’t there even the remotest possibility that this little asshole might have been egged on just a bit by some of the shit he was hearing on his television or radio, much of it coming from supposedly “reputable” politicians, as well as fat, blubbering douchebags who refer to themselves as “leaders” of the Republican Party? It doesn't matter whether his "beliefs" were right wing or left wing; it's likely the current political climate, which includes imagery invoking guns and shooting ranges, emboldened this guy.  

Frankly, it baffles me when no one in their Republican Party calls anyone on such things. By allowing this sort of rhetoric to continue unabated, they are contributing to the problem.  Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik make an off-hand remark at his press conference Saturday, in which he suggested that the political climate might have something to do with this tragedy, and almost immediately, the self-righteous moral arbiter John Kyl dismissed the remark as “inappropriate.

I don’t think it’s inappropriate to call John Kyl a hypocrite.  You don’t get to sit by quietly, and listen to the violent rhetoric coming from your own political “base” without comment, and then object when someone makes a comment about the rhetoric, and get away with it. John Kyl is a pure hypocrite. Again, it doesn't matter what the guy's political beliefs are; if he was made to feel as if violence was a part of the system, based on the political rhetoric he was exposed to, then those responsible for such rhetoric are responsible for emboldening him. 

In a country with our track record, any political discussion that includes violent rhetoric should be roundly condemned by all right-thinking people, regardless of their political party and the speaker's status within that party.  Period. You cannot call yourself a “moral” person, in any context, and ignore threats of any kind, whether they are specific or very general.

And when I refer to violent rhetoric, I am not just talking about discussions of guns and killing and maiming and the like. I also include references to political opposition as “the enemy.” 

I’m sorry, but references to Obama as everything from a “socialist” to “the Antichrist,” and everything in between, are also part of the problem. References to anyone who simply disagrees politically in terms the engender fear mongering, or refer to them as “enemies” also contributes to the problem. And let’s be real, folks; on that last score, some lefties are culpable, as well. The Orange Boner, Miss McConnell and Eric "Bitch Boy" Cantor are worthy of parody and ridicule for many of the things they say and do, but they are not "enemies" of the United States, and should not be talked up as such. Caribou Barbie should have been roundly condemned by everyone when she placed crosshairs over Democrats her PAC wanted to see defeated, and she should have been shamed into removing it within hours after it appeared. Instead, she wasn't shamed into removing it until tragedy happened this past Saturday, nearly 10 months after it was placed there. 

It’s time for political discourse to be turned down a notch, folks. Mostly on the far right, but also, to a lesser extent, on the far left, as well. I put a video up on YouTube years ago that has had around a million hits, and I have had to delete at least a dozen or more comments in which posters called for Bush's death. While the problem is most acute with prominent Republicans and right wingers, the left is certainly not above doing such a thing.  

It’s well past time to return to discussing politics with each other as the loyal opposition. It’s time to stop playing personality politics, and start discussing the issues in a frank but just manner. George W. Bush was the most incompetent president in the history of this nation, and as far as I’m concerned, he should be tried for war crimes. But that doesn’t make everyone who disagrees with me into a war criminal, or an enemy of the state. Likewise, if you don’t particularly agree with President Obama on issues, that doesn’t make him a socialist, or un-American or any of that nonsense, and it sure as shit doesn’t make him an enemy of the United States. And it doesn’t make me an enemy of the United States because I support the man wholeheartedly, and think he’s the best president we’ve had in the office in about 30 years.

It’s time to send the political fringe elements back to the goddamn fringes, where they have always belonged. Yeah, Republicans, that means you might lose a few elections while you readjust. But by embracing these fringe right wing nut jobs and making them your “base,” you no longer get to feign innocence when a tragedy like this occurs. You no longer get to pretend you have no culpability when violence occurs in the political arena. And make no mistake; even if it turns out that this little asshole wasn’t affiliated with the Tea Party or the Republican Party, it’s just a matter of time before someone is.

I’d make the same admonishment to the Democrats, but to their credit, the Democrats have never embraced the far left fringes. Likewise, far left fringes have never adopted the Democratic Party.

Republicans, the ball is in your court. You can object all you want to our tying you to violent behavior, but even you have to admit, it’s plausible.

There is no place in American political discourse for violent and hateful rhetoric. Period. 


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