Monday, January 10, 2011

Deadly consequences

OK, maybe this isn't "moving on" from Saturday's tragedy, exactly, but I'm at least posting political cartoons again, right? Baby steps...

And it will be some time before this event moves into the background. I fully expect more cartoons, more videos, more commentary. This has caught the nation's attention - and rightly so.

But before I continue right now, if you're wondering how close the above comic comes to Sarah Palin's notorious campaign ad, check it out here. The difference? No blood spatters. (Before Saturday, you had to imagine those yourself.)

Anyway, here's a brief excerpt from Ed Stein's commentary:
It’s not hard to believe that the poisonous political climate of the last few years can move an unstable person to violence.  Indeed, the past summer, featuring rage-filled shoutdowns at town hall meetings, gleefully promoted by Fox News and conservative talk show hosts, led to hundreds of threats against members of Congress. The poster symbol of the anger and intolerance may well be the map Sarah Palin posted on her website during the election, highlighting targeted Democratic congressional districts with crosshairs. Let me be clear that both parties have indulged all too often in language that debases the debate, but the preponderance of the anger and invective seems to come from the far right. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik got it exactly right when he said, “To try to inflame the public on a daily basis 24 hours a day, seven days a week has impaqct on people, especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with.” He called for us all to do some soul-searching.

Now, of course, the same folks who gloried in the over-the-top rhetoric, who infused the political debate with violent imagery, are shocked at the bloodshed. I’d like to believe that this event will force us all to reconsider how we conduct the political discourse in this country, but I suspect that, after a brief pause, we will go on as before. Too many pundits make their living stoking the public rage, and too many politicians have learned to capitalize on that anger. The mainstream politicians all responded with appropriate horror and sadness (as well they should, given the danger they are all exposed to), as did many of the Tea Party leaders. Then there was Judson Phillips, founder of the Tea Party Nation, whose immediate response to the carnage was this: “The hard left is going to try and silence the Tea Party movement by blaming us…The shooter was a liberal lunatic. Emphasis on both words.”

So much for soul-searching.

David Horsey's commentary is great, too. It's too long to post everything, but here's a healthy excerpt:
Frankly, I am not surprised that violence has erupted in our political life. As in Pakistan, rhetoric from the right has become so extreme and irresponsible that it was only a matter of time before some deranged individual would exercise what the Nevada Tea Party's failed Senate candidate, Sharron Angle called "Second Amendment remedies."

All evidence, thus far, suggests the 22-year-old man who gunned down U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others outside a Tucson grocery store is mentally unstable and unaffiliated with any political organization. His incoherent Internet posts reveal a paranoid disconnection from reality.

In that, he is not so different from a broad range of voices on the Internet and talk radio. Over the last two years, all manner of paranoid ideas have found life in the right wing media: Barack Obama is a Muslim; Barack Obama is not an American; Barack Obama is the Antichrist. The Democrats want to set up death panels to kill off old people. The government is forming secret military units that will cart patriots off to internment camps. Progressives want to destroy America, kill capitalism, turn the USA into a Socialist police state and give the Southwest back to Mexico.

Refraining to go quite that far down the paranoid path, many Republican politicians have, nevertheless, exploited the craziness and anger by wildly overstating the intentions of their political adversaries. Democratic health care legislation that was a mild modification of a Republican plan offered by Bob Dole in the 1990s is vilified as nothing short of job-killing, socialized medicine. Environmental policies instituted by Richard Nixon are now portrayed as Big Government schemes to stifle free enterprise. Immigration reforms first proposed by George W. Bush once backed by John McCain are now branded as a left wing scheme to allow illegal immigrants to overrun America.

Angry Tea Partiers scream about the need to "take back their country" while Sarah Palin riles them further with talk of "reloading" as she puts up maps with gun sights placed over the districts of targeted Democratic members of Congress. ...

Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and their compatriots in the lucrative commentary business will no doubt reject the idea that their hot talk had anything to do with the Tucson tragedy – they are nothing if not self-absorbed and endlessly self-justifying. At best, a few Republican senators and congressmen might try to rein in the out-of-control political discourse now that one of their colleagues has been targeted.

I am not optimistic that the killings in the stark Arizona sunlight will change anything. As long as anger, paranoia and misinformation drive our political debate, there are unhinged souls among us who will feel justified in turning to violent remedies for imagined threats.

Welcome to Pakistan.

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