Monsters In Our Midst
Two years ago we saw a sudden rash of people showing up at political rallies packing guns. With little exception, most were conservatives. Way back then, understanding the potential for something to go horribly wrong, I wrote a post saying that guns and political rallies don’t mix. And while I received some support from people who felt the same way, some people who commented on that post argued that people should have the legal right to take their guns where they please in environments like Arizona’s lax gun law environment. With little exception, the people who argued for guns at the rally were conservatives.
Now, does this mean that conservatives are to be implicated in the shooting that occurred this past weekend that has resulted in House Representative Gabrielle Giffords being shot in the head and struggling for her life in hospital? Not at all. Does it mean that the people that argued for loaded weapons to be worn like a clothing accessory at one of those acidic town hall meetings did anything illegal? Of course not. Does this mean that these people should be embarrassed about their position and should access the situation and admit that they may have been wrong? Absolutely not. But if these people had any shred of integrity or any consideration for the families of the people who were killed or the people who were injured, they would probably take a second look at their position. If somebody in a position of leadership was actually using incendiary language to excite his or her supporters, that person should take responsibility for the poor choice of words used to promote his or her position, and to ridicule the opponent.
It’s a matter of common sense that we should examine the reckless use of angry rhetoric and its sources to fire up passions. Everybody who participates in politics or tries to persuade people to support their position or opinion uses it. How many times have we heard someone say something like people need to fight for their rights? Violent rhetoric is a part of politics. How many politicians have said something like, I’ll fight for you so you have to fight for me? It makes the masses feel like they have someone who will protect their position and gives people the impression that the politician will assure their needs, wants, and desires are met. It makes them feel like they have a dog in the “fight”.
But people need to understand that there’s a fine line between fierce political rhetoric meant to motivate political support and the provocative language that could inspire others to cross the line of what might be legally or morally or ethically acceptable. And when that happens, we have a responsibility to our community to find the problem and to make corrections.
A lot of talk has been made about former candidate for Vice-President from the conservative side of politics, Sarah Palin. She has excelled at wrapping herself in conservative, patriotic fervor and whipping her supporters into such a passionate zeal that accurately resembles the dictionary definition of the word “mob”. She has a history of using language that is normally associated with guns and weaponry. She proudly endorsed visual images that made use of crosshairs from a riflescope to support her rhetoric. And while she herself has been the subject of such hateful imagery, can anyone name any high profile political opponent of hers that endorsed the use of such depictions?
Now I will admit that in many respects, Ms. Palin is not alone. A lot of people have used weapons, images related to weaponry, and language associated with weaponry in their rhetoric. But Ms. Palin tosses these terms about like bird seeds to a flock of starving, violent vultures and her rhetoric has come home to roost.
Instead of having the decency to accept responsibility for the association she created very willingly, Ms. Palin now says it is the people who point the finger at her, who question her intentions that are the irresponsible ones. The self-proclaimed pit bull in lipstick now wants to claim that she abhors violence and violent imagery. The gun sight pictures she employed were really nothing more than surveyor markings. If that was the case then it wouldn’t have been brought down so quickly after the shooting that has brought all of this rhetoric front and center on the country’s collective conscious. In the typical, socially irresponsible style that has become her brand, Ms. Palin says that she’s the victim here. People from the left are blaming her. She wants to pretend that she has nothing to be ashamed of and wants to rewrite her history now. Ms. Palin insist she has done nothing wrong.
Suzi Hileman was the fifty nine year old neighbor who took nine year old Christina Green to see Ms. Giffords that fateful Saturday morning. Ms. Hileman and little Christina shared an interest in politics. Both Christina and Ms. Hileman were shot, Christina’s wounds were fatal. Ms. Hileman did nothing wrong. But she is riddled with guilt over the death of her neighbor. Even though there was little she could have done to prevent what happened, she shows a deep sense of responsibility for the death of the little girl. Since the shooting the woman suffers from nightmares, no doubt partially fueled from contemplations about what she could have done differently. That shows strength of character and a sense of community.
Ms. Hileman would never be so callous as to hide behind some claim that she did nothing wrong. Ms. Hileman would never promote the idea that she did nothing illegal and therefore doesn’t owe Christina’s parents an apology. That would be monstrous. She accepts the fact that she may have contributed in setting up the conditions that led to the little girl’s unfortunate murder. Ms. Palin could learn a thing or two from such a caring, compassionate person. But waiting for Ms. Palin to accept responsibility and apologize for any appearance of something reprehensible is like waiting for Godzilla to apologize for smashing up Tokyo. It’s just a part of the monster’s nature.
If Ms. Palin feels that she’s being attacked, like the people who come to her defense like to say, prove it. No one is attacking Ms. Palin. No one here is attacking conservatism. But the connection between Ms. Palin’s violent rhetoric and this horrendous crime is evident. It’s not an attack. It is common sense. When a murder is committed, it is natural for people investigating the crime to examine people who said something that could be interpreted as a threat to the victim. Most people don’t like monsters in our midst. If she didn’t want to be associated with such violence, she should have never promoted herself with such violent images.