In the wake of the Giffords tragedy, I’ve been trying to put my thoughts in order. The young man who was the shooter is still, in many ways, a mystery. He is non-cooperative with the police, no one knows really what his true motives were, and most agree that he was seriously mentally disturbed. That he had no known connection with Sarah Palin and her “cross-fire” website, no known connection with the rabid right wing, has not stopped speculation. Political motivation, not surprisingly, was the first place the authorities looked when creating a profile. So, even though there are no obvious connections, that was the can of worms that was opened. And, now that it is opened, there is no stopping it. It has been too long in the coming.
The left wing is pushing. For too long, the left has been the target of the virulent ranting of Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, et al. The right wing is pushing back. There is, after all, absolutely no connection between the shooters and the Tea Party radicals that has been found. Both sides, as well as those in the middle of both sides, are frantically attempting to defend themselves or blame others through all forms of media. Reports of violence on both ends are being dug up and dragged into the discussions over and over again. Who is right? Who is wrong? Why, when at most the shooter is simply a seriously troubled young man who snapped, is the focus on the idea that violent rhetoric is the public danger at this time?
It won’t be long until someone on one side or the other will cry, “CONSPIRACY!”. What drew us together as a nation in the wakes of tragedies such as 9/11, the Oklahoma bombing, this event, and other national tragedies, will be poked at and prodded until it becomes a galvanizing symbol for one politician or the other. The battle cry will ring, and off we will go again. Palin will once again have people in her “cross-hairs”. The rumors will fly that Homeland Security suspects right-wing involvement. The right wing will rant. The left wing will rave. The nuts of either side will get nuttier. And things will stay, well, pretty much the same, except now there will be yet another poster for the insanity. Another example through which to inflame the public. The media will cater to the lowest common denominator– an angry, exhausted, and suspicious public– to further their personal goals, issues, and popularity. And the amount in their bank accounts. Or the votes. And, as happens most of the time, a gullible public will fall in line. On both sides.
I can see both sides. I do feel that a good point is that the violent rhetoric must stop and civility must be restored, as the nastiness has just gone too far. Friends are divided. Families are divided. Anger is, once again, threatening to cloud the issue, as long-held animosities are brought into the fray. Yet, I do agree that there was no obvious involvement of the young shooter with the right wing fringe. There is even speculation about the involvement of the young man with the occult. Will that lead to persecution of innocent Wiccans and Pagans? Much as the controversial mosque plans close to Ground 0 led to the persecution against Muslims? Was Laughner anti-Semitic, which has also been suggested? Will the truth, when it comes out, just lead to more division, as one side or the other gains the upper hand on issues that have little or nothing to do with the actual crime?
The issue of violent rhetoric has little or nothing to do with the actual shooting. But, the issue is now on the table, largely because of the state we are in as a nation, and there can really be no going back, as both sides now have to save face. So, what do we do? Where do we go from here? Will we allow yet another polarizing event to further our antagonism towards one another? Or will we take the issue that has arisen out of this senseless tragedy and realize it was articulated for a reason—the reason being that the anger and violent attitudes people have towards one another because of differences in opinion is so close to the surface that the first thoughts in peoples’ minds in the face of a national tragedy is that of a conspiracy on the part of one side or the other. That people, the backbone of this country, are being USED by unscrupulous talking heads and politicians to further polarize the nation through vicious rhetoric.
Giffords has been threatened before because of her stand on various issues. So have members of her family. Politicians on both sides have faced the possibility, and the actuality, of threats of bodily harm to themselves or to their loved ones. That this issue is uppermost on the consciousness of the nation has been proven, once again, by the way the chips fly when a tragedy occurs. That the useability of this tragedy is uppermost on the minds of those who are either on the defense or the offense, and have something to gain, is tragic, in and of itself. That the whole mess of violent rhetoric has just gone too far is the most tragic aspect of all, because it reflects the attitudes of an entire nation. Violent rhetoric does inspire violence in people who are on the knife-edge of despair, or mental illness, or discouragement, or anger, and it is no surprise that this rhetoric was the first thing people looked at when the details of the shooting hit the airwaves. I’ve had it directed at me, personally. It is frightening. It needs to be calmed, to become rational discourse between those who disagree, not inflammatory efforts to inspire fear in an already frightened public. Yet, the pointing of fingers before the facts are out must be stopped, as well. We are either going to draw together as a country or we will fall apart.
So, while I do feel that the issue of violent rhetoric should be addressed in the wake of this tragedy, both sides, from the politicians down to the very backbones of this country, the people, should take this as a wake-up call and stop acting like children. The right wing isn’t evil. The left wing isn’t evil. Democracy isn’t perfect. Communism isn’t of the devil. People do as people will do. Difference is not deficit. We are not all zombies on the same path. Nor do we have to be. Yet. The point is, will we learn from the tragedies we face as a nation? Will we take the issues as they arise, relevant or not, but there, close enough to the surface so that they boil over and spew out in fresh waves each and every time a tragedy occurs, and address them in a civil and coherent manner? Or will we let the talking heads, the rabble rousers, the violent rhetoric by politicians on either side or in the middle, continue to lead us down a path from which there is no return?