Sunday, January 9, 2011

What the F--k! Arizona?

I try not to be an emotional person but as I scrolled through the pictures of the shooting in Arizona yesterday (January 8th) I could not help myself. It is a tragedy on many different levels: a domestic terrorist attack resulting in the deaths of six people, including a 9-year-old girl; an attack on an elected official and member of the judiciary; and an indicator of the extreme hate and violence currently present in American politics. Tea Party supporters and those of the far right have been quick to state that the gunman (Jared Lee Loughner) was not a member of the Tea Party movement; that the Tea Party does not espouse violence; and that the left will blame the Tea Party and far right for the shooting in order to put politics first. Of course, when the Tea Party puts politics first it's a completely different matter:

“While we need to take a moment to extend our sympathies to the families of those who died, we cannot allow the hard left to do what it tried to do in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing,” he wrote. “Within the entire political spectrum, there are extremists, both on the left and the right. Violence of this nature should be decried by everyone and not used for political gain.” (from this article at The New York Times)

What needs to be remember now is that, yes, the Tea Party and far right do not officially condone violence or violent methods, but that does not mean they do hold responsibility for inciting violence. Sarah Palin's website included Gabrielle Gifford's (the congresswoman targeted and shot) district in a gun's cross hairs; Glenn Beck has warned that "it is only a matter of time before an actual crazy person really does something stupid" and "the war is just beginning", or, even more darkly, "[we are reaching] a point where the people will have exhausted all their options. When that happens, look out." Seriously, what the fuck? Regardless of whether Mr. Loughner was a member of the Tea Party movement or any other political faction is largely beside the point when violent rhetoric has become par for the course in American politics. It is not sufficient to claim innocence and hide behind the First Amendment: if you encourage and promote violent means to ends then you are indirectly responsible for the violence that may ensue. As my friend Foxy by Nature recently pointed out, the First Amendment does not protect against speech that causes harm to others. The Tea Party movement and far right may not have been directly involved in yesterday's shooting, but that does not absolve them from filling today's political climate with the "vitriol" that led to deadly violence. Until that responsibility is accepted, I do not think the violence is over.

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