Saturday, January 08, 2011

An open note in the wake of tragedy

Forgive me if I and others suspect, at least in the immediate wake of it, that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' shooting is politically motivated.

I'm being flooded with Twitter and Facebook statuses suggesting that anyone who does so is a monster or is cackling gleefully. Or is otherwise exploiting it for political purposes.

Bullshit! This is a HUMAN issue. This week was rife with shootouts all over the country. That alone is tragic, regardless of cause. 

But if you expect me to believe that a Democratic congresswoman, in Arizona, whose district was "targeted" on SarahPAC's website, would be shot in the head at a campaign event, in an age when the right-wing movement makes a point of bringing guns to town-hall meetings and openly talks of Democrats as if they are the Marxist enemies of America, and that it was just some random act of violence with no chance of political undertones, well, sorry. I can't do that. And to ignore that possibility is stupid and reckless. And could cause more tragedy down the line.

And no, I'm not going to blame all conservatives, all Republicans, all tea partiers, etc. I'm not going to suggest that everyone who doesn't support Democrats supports shooting them in the head. But I don't think it's at all irresponsible to suggest that there are enough extremists hopped up on hate out there to give us all pause. The media is not responsible, but irresponsible punditry doesn't help. You don't get to bark a constant pipeline of hate, fear and hyperbole and then suddenly call for civility when it comes back to bite you.

Interpret that if you will as a stab against all of the pseudo-revolutionary talk and smug, glib, take-America-back-before-America-takes-your-guns-and-daughters punditry from the far right. All I know is, we have yet to see a political figure shot by a Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow disciple. No atheists have exercised their Second Amendment rights on a fundamentalist preacher over doctrinal differences. If they did, they would also deserve every bit of this criticism. Until then, this particular faction of extremism deserves all the condemnation it has and will get. 

Just like we shouldn't condemn all Muslims for the acts of a few, neither should we condemn all conservatives for this act. And I don't think anything beyond extra security for all politicians at events is going to help anything, and I certainly don't support a crackdown on political views. But again, there's a difference between overreacting and not reacting at all. And to suggest that we just brush the political possibility aside is asking for disaster in this day and age. Assuming that the shooting was in fact politically motivated, that makes it a double tragedy, for the victims and their families as well as the future of this country. I don't think it's at all out of line or disrespectful to bring up that notion. It's not too soon. If anything, it's too late.


Anonymous said...

We don't need to condemn conservatives for this act. But we do need to condemn them for their opportunistic use of inflammatory rhetoric. And as you say, it's not just time to do that, it's too late.


PS I was born in Springfield. Raised there during the 60's and 70's Have Rush LImbaugh listening preacher relatives back there. Glad to be in CA

Larry Litle said...


You are forgetting about the Unabomber,Ted Kaczynsk, who blew up people for his extreme liberal views. Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist. Jared Loughner, wacko from yesterday, stated he is a fan of the Communist Manifesto. These guys are not your normal card carrying conservatives. There are other on the political left side that are plenty violent.

I blogged on how both sides need to stop the irresponsible political dehumanizing today.

rhonda said...

sure, there are nuts on all sides, but playing the equivalency card does not change the fact that sarah palin herself thought it prudent to take down/edit her sites, and go into hiding in response to yesterday's events. i don't seem to recall anyone in any public position feeling that same need to over-correct the day that the unabomber was apprehended, and that's no accident, it's because you couldn't find a soul from any party that you could even vaguely construe as inciting or egging on ted kaczynski. that is why yesterday is different.

well-stated, ian.

Ian McGibboney said...

Melanie - Welcome and small world! I hope you stick around. Hope to make my way down to California myself someday.

Larry/Rhonda - I don't think either Ted Kaczynski or Jared Loughner had coherent political views so much as they felt above the law, a la anarchy. The Unabomber hated technology, and Loughner seems to have subscribed to an amalgam of beliefs that led him to distrust government, currency and society in general. That same distrust, albeit in a more rhetorical form, guides the tea party and other strains of conservatism. Look into its tenets (government distrust, obsession with gold practices, talk about tyranny and patriot blood). This guy might have not been a Democrat or a Republican, but he definitely bought into the tyranny rhetoric now being stoked over mainstream cable airwaves.

Anonymous said...

Did/does Jared Loughner have, as you say, "coherent political views"? Was/is he really a Tea Party member? Did/does he support Sarah Palin? Before we jump to conclusions shouldn't we find out who the hell he is first?

Ian McGibboney said...

All I know is, I've seen his YouTube videos. The ones where he outlines everything he believes in.

But that's neither here nor there. This post is a criticism of those who want to ignore the circumstances altogether, when I can't think of a time when we didn't at least have a healthy debate about past shootings. And it's not lost on me that just about everyone I've heard calling for non-political discussions are those whose views would most be challenged by one.

I still say the worst that can happen is that we decide that this is just some random shooting. And even if it somehow is, how is that any better?

NOLA Progressive said...

It's not jumping to conclusions, in my opinion, to suspect that he may have been influenced by the Right Wing punditry of late. I mean Gifford was placed in cross hairs by Miss don't Retreat...Reload- Palin. The suspicion is normal.

Further, it's the perpetuation of violent and hateful rhetoric by franchised, mainstream figures and media outlets that could very well push more of these unhinged types toward action. Sure, they have a right to free speech, but that doesn't make their speech in the pursuit of profit responsible or ethical.

venessalewis said...

Good writing on a terrible topic Ian. As an aside, I find your best stuff comes from "in the moment" perspectives such as this. The ones you don't hold onto and agonize over for days. These and the stream of thought blogs. ;)