Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Palin's Tucson Blame Game

Originally published in the BG News on Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Democratic Representative from Arizona Gabrielle Giffords took her first breaths without the assistance of a ventilator this weekend.  She endured a tracheotomy and doctors inserted a feeding tube, raising her condition from critical to serious.  And this is the best news to come out of Tucson in over a week.

Jared Lee Loughner, 22, is suspected of shooting 19 people.  Found with 30 bullets loaded and 30 more ready to go, Loughner is accused of killing six and wounding 13.  And one of those was Gabrielle Giffords—shot in the head.
Loughner’s lawyers are seeking a change of venue, i.e. outside of Arizona, to ensure a fair trial.  And Loughner’s reported mental illness has steered attention away from gun control to a more specific debate about second amendment rights. 
But there’s a more pertinent discussion to be had—even though some are flat out refusing.
While the actual environment is experiencing significant changes, our political climate is in even worse condition.  And this is also, very much, our fault.
Following the shots fired in Arizona, Jon Stewart delivered a sobering monologue for the Daily Show.  Keeping with the theme of his “Rally to Restore Sanity,” Stewart acknowledged the divisive nature of current democratic system.  Red and blue, depicted as good and evil, drawing lines in the sand and across the map, has reached a fever pitch and it must be stopped-- but it didn’t kill anybody.
“I wouldn’t blame our political rhetoric, anymore than I would blame heavy metal music for Columbine,” said Stewart, who admittedly hates the political environment of the United States—even though it’s his bread and butter.
“It is toxic.  It is unproductive. But to say that is what has caused this… boy wouldn’t that be nice—to draw a straight line of causation from this horror to something tangible…” Stewart said.
Yet suspicions surrounding the antics of the two parties have ignited a change in congress.  Diane Sawyer and ABC news reported Republicans and Democrats, for the first time ever, will cross the aisle for the State of the Union Address in the spirit of civility. And the donkeys will sit amongst the elephants.
But what about Sarah Palin?
A competitive opponent always foaming at the mouth, Palin’s campaign tactics were questioned after she depicted democratic districts, including Giffords’, in the crosshairs of a gun and making several violent analogies about winning desired territories.  The day she tweeted something especially incriminating is the same day Loughner took to the streets of Tucson, which is the same day she removed her crosshairs map from the internet.
Sarah Palin “targeted” victims of the shooting in her propaganda.  She visualized putting democrats in the crosshairs of a deadly weapon.  She told the masses, “don’t retreat—reload” and finally, Palin’s misuse of social media caught up with her.
Coincidence?  Yes.  But did she pull the trigger?  No.  And Giffords’ condition is not her fault—but the happenstance needed to be addressed.
Sensing unrest in the media, Palin made a short video defending herself-- but not once in her eight minute speech did she express any sympathy for the fallen. 
Drunk on self-righteous nationalism, she showed no remorse.  Her smug, “it wasn’t me” speech was an obvious opportunity to re-rally her Tea Party troops and she whipped them into an America-loving frenzy, convincing them that their rights are still in danger and she’s committed to defending them. 
But while reinforcing the fear she’s built her career on, she never said she was sorry for anyone’s loss.  When protesting that each individual is accountable for their actions—she never took responsibility for her own.
Palin said she was “speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent,” and when some questioned whether death threats were in poor taste, she felt her freedom of speech was under attack.  But why is it any time someone disagrees with Sarah Palin, or corrects her, they’re trampling her rights?
Of course she’s entitled to her opinion.  But “democrats should be shot” is not just an opinion.  Threats against human life are not the same as those health care or immigration policies we can’t seem to agree upon. 
Sarah Palin insists it’s her right, as an American citizen, to make animated death threats against people who think differently—in the spirit of debate.  Debate is an important and valuable tradition.  But what is the proper response to finding oneself in the crosshairs?  What counterpoint is there to “reload” other than a bullet-proof vest?
Murder is never just a metaphor.  And here’s where Palin’s beloved first amendment rights meet real restrictions—when they begin to infringe on other people’s rights.  Like 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green’s right to life or Gabrielle Giffords’ right to not eat from a feeding tube. 
The first amendment serves a specific purpose.  The framers of the constitution wanted to protect the people’s ability to criticize their government; not protect politicians from scrutiny.  And the people have spoken.  This overly-dramatic, uncooperative, filibuster-friendly, mud-slinging, arch-nemesis bullshit must end.    
 “Don’t let the random acts of a criminal turn us against ourselves,” said Palin.  Or reconsider our misguided actions.  Or maturely and sincerely express remorse for the misfortune of our fellow Americans.
No, Sarah Palin didn’t pull the trigger.  But she’s contributing to a world where other people will.  And no incident is isolated in a country where public officials and office hopefuls serve as opinion leaders.


  1. Ohmy, I just couldn't read this post fast enough.

    I personally find it difficult to write about Palin..... I get so caught up in my anger. Very well said! :))

  2. Thank you so much. It's definitely a process.
    I write, walk away, meditate, and then write again.

    And thanks for the heads up about Networked Blogs! It's good to finally be part of a community.