Friday, January 14, 2011
Arizona Shootings, Sarah Palin and Rightwing Rhetoric
Those of us this side of the Atlantic who despair at some aspects of American society have had more cause for head-shaking over the bullets recently fired by 22 year old Jed Loughram in Tucson Arizona. Six innocent people were killed and left Congresswoman Giffords fighting for her life. It often seems this vast, anarchic, highly libertarian country has more than its fair share of people eager to project their mental instability onto the public realm. Given this tendency we can only deplore the outpourings of the Republicn rightwing- Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the inimitable Sarah Palin- to clothe their diatribes in terms of violent insurrection. They have seemed to fix in their minds the idea that Obama represents a tyrannical government intent upon subverting the constitution. The Economist notes:
Right-wing radio and television hosts routinely indulge in the language of armed resistance to the tyranny that resides in Washington, DC, as though Barack Obama were a reincarnation of the hated King George III and they were the heroes of the revolution.
Foremost amongst such 'patriotic' voices is that of former Governor Palin. She recently exhorted her followers not to 'retreat but to reload' but more irresponsibly issued a map on here website indicating locations of Democratic representatives who had supported health reform with the cross-hairs of a rifle sight. Undaunted by the criticism she has received, Palin counter accused her critics of as 'blood libel', an extraordinary statement given its overtones:
it refers to the false accusation that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood in religious rituals. Giffords, who remains in critical condition after being shot in the head, is the first Jewish congresswoman from Arizona.
One possible silver lining of this awful affair is suggested by the excellentJonathan Freedland. He suggests that should she ever become her party's presidential nominee, she would be challenged constantly by the image of that map which arguably incited her followers to aim one of the personal arsenal of weapons which all these people are proud to own at the stricken Giffords. Maybe it's too big a stretch to blame Palin for the gunman's actions but its the kind of stretch Limbaugh and company constantly enjoin their followers to believe about Obama being a Muslim, a communist an so forth. It might just, as Freedland suggests, disqualify this loosest of cannons from ever entering the White House.
The Economist however, thinks the 'blame game' is misdirected: its cross-hairs should instead be centered over US liberal gun laws. It eloquently states its case:
In no other decent country could any civilian, let alone a deranged one, legally get his hands on a Glock semi-automatic. Even in America, the extended 31-shot magazine that Mr Loughner used was banned until 2004. As the Brady Centre, established after the Reagan shooting to commemorate one of its victims, has noted, more Americans were killed by guns in the 18 years between 1979 and 1997 than died in all of America’s foreign wars since its independence. Around 30,000 people a year are killed by one of the almost 300m guns in America—almost one for every citizen. Those deaths are not just murders and suicides: some are accidents, often involving children.
It is Obama and the like who are violating the constitution and destroying America, not Palin. And using a tragedy like this shows the left up for the opportunists they are.
The American people have tired of Obama and his failures. He has two years before he leaves the stage. Good riddance.
It is true that language and symbolism in American political debate is more emotional and violent than in most democracies - but missing from the debate appears to be a sense that it has always been this way and that America has always been a country where the gun has played a role.
The founding fathers called each other "traitors" in print, there have been 20 attempted presidential assassinations, four of which were successful.
JFK, MLK, and RFK died in the 1960s in which one of the most memorable political slogans came from the Black Panthers: "By Any Means Necessary."
In 2004 the Democrats used a map of the US under the headline "Targeting" and bullseyes over states they were concentrating on - the blurb talked about operating "behind enemy lines".
Perhaps less overtly violent than Mrs Palin's crosshairs but in the same vein, is Barry Obama's "if they bring a knife we'll bring a gun" speech in 2008.
The local stalwart Sheriff Dupnik (Democrat) introduced the idea of a political angle into the news story at an early stage. A gift to the 24hour media and a different slant to the usual gun control/loner/drugs narrative which arises after similar events.
The rush to judgement - by the usual excitable suspects - that there is something special about this event, is
likely to be unfounded.
Politics in America has always used the language of the gun, and the gun has always been used in America. End of.
Imagine the frotting of the leftie press & their blogster chums if this type of image was used by a right of centre media outlet ........
I wonder how the eventual passing of The Lady will be marked by "the democratic left"