The subject of Sarah Palin’s ‘cross-hairs’ map has been much written, spoken, or gesticulated about over the past few days, since the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and others in Arizona last weekend.
Palin, like others in the public eye who hint at violence as a means to a political end, cannot wash her hands completely clean of the crime, as just like Pontius Pilate, she and many others in America must bear a certain moral responsibility for the deaths of innocent people.
True accountability for the Tuscon tragedy lies with the nation of America, just as it did at Columbine, Virginia Tech, or Red Lake. Allow your fellows to play with guns, America, and inevitably someone will get killed. It’s a lesson you’ve been taught over and over again, but you fail to heed it.
Palin, herself, along with pals Beck and Limbaugh, and a few other minor right-wing ‘celebrities’ are mere manifestations of a more violent and disturbed section of American society, one that views guns as an alternative solution to politics, when politics doesn’t go their way.
Sarah Palin may not, of herself, have caused the shootings in Tuscon, but the violent rhetoric she and others have been using is palpably effective in arousing passions, and could undoubtedly trigger a response in those of a mentally unstable disposition. If this type of enraged argument didn’t engender an emotional response from their followers, Palin and her pals wouldn’t use it.
The ex-Alaska governor’s eventual response to those who saw her rhetoric and visual imaging as an indirect cause of last Saturday’s tragedy, was a masterpiece of platitudinous hypocrisy interlaced with the tortuous squirmings of a juicy worm firmly impaled on a fisherman’s hook.
The title of her piece was arrogance personified: “America’s Enduring Strength”.
If America were a strong nation there would be no need, or desire, to possess guns, except perhaps for that minority in any country who draw an ill-defined, egotistical, pleasure from the slaughter of wildlife. Was the title, perhaps, a reference to the slushy media over-sentimentality that always accompanies these all-to-regular human massacres?
The first two paragraphs were typical of any wannabe politician pandering to the emotions of a shocked public – though lacking conviction:
Like millions of Americans I learned of the tragic events in Arizona on Saturday, and my heart broke for the innocent victims. No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for the victims’ families as we express our sympathy.
I agree with the sentiments shared yesterday at the beautiful Catholic mass held in honor of the victims. The mass will hopefully help begin a healing process for the families touched by this tragedy and for our country.
It’s doubtful anything could begin a healing process so soon after bereavement, but surely the Pope will be grateful for her approval.
Our exceptional nation, so vibrant with ideas and the passionate exchange and debate of ideas, is a light to the rest of the world. Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange ideas that day, to celebrate our Republic’s core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It’s inexcusable and incomprehensible why a single evil man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day.
To suggest that the United States is a ‘light to the rest of the world’, following its cold-blooded dismembering of Iraq, and the global bankruptcy resulting from its financiers’ appropriation of America’s wealth, and that of other nations, is a remark at best lacking up-to-date knowledge of the world, or possibly more a case of blinkered ignorance.
Were Palin to realize how much America is shunned by ordinary people in other countries, who cannot forgive the behavior displayed since 9/11, she might well choose other words when attempting to impress her fan base.
It may be ‘inexcusable’, but it certainly isn’t ‘incomprehensible’ (at least, to those with a modicum of independent thought) that a gunman should take the lives of peaceful citizens. It’s dazzlingly clear when one realizes Jared Lee Loughner was mentally ill, yet still able to purchase a semi-automatic weapon as easily as a loaf of bread from Wal-Mart.
If Loughner is ‘evil’ for committing the heinous act of gunning down innocent people, how many ‘evil’ Americans have there been in the Middle East since 2003, gunning down innocent Iraqis? Or, perhaps, Sarah Palin believes they’re only ‘evil’ if they kill Americans?
Mental illness is not ‘evil’, though its effects may sometimes appear to be.
There is a bittersweet irony that the strength of the American spirit shines brightest in times of tragedy. We saw that in Arizona. We saw the tenacity of those clinging to life, the compassion of those who kept the victims alive, and the heroism of those who overpowered a deranged gunman.
Like many, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.
President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.
Palin may choose to believe the spirit of the British, French, Russian, or any other nationality, is somehow different from the ‘American spirit’? It isn’t. People react in similar vein wherever they live. And in such circumstances, ‘react’ is exactly what they do. They’re neither ‘tenacious’, nor ‘heroic’, but they are, usually, compassionate. Media and political hype in this country consistently stresses the ‘hero’ aspect surrounding such tragedies – and as quickly forgets them, as happened with the rescuers at the World Trade Center.
Stooping to quotes from previous Republican presidents is once more a play to her fan base. Ronald Reagan said many things -most of which were incorrect. He was a two-bit actor who starred in B-movies, and his presidency was equally second rate. He increased defense spending, sacked 12,000 air traffic controllers who had viable grievances, further intensified the war on drugs, and reduced the income tax of billionaires from 70% to 28%
He was also wrong to suggest society is never complicit in crime. A society that does nothing to prevent a mentally disturbed individual from easily purchasing a lethal weapon, or allows them to easily fall into the hands of children, has to be culpable, if only by reason of irresponsibility and omission.
The last election was all about taking responsibility for our country’s future. President Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process. Two years ago his party was victorious. Last November, the other party won. In both elections the will of the American people was heard, and the peaceful transition of power proved yet again the enduring strength of our Republic.
Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.
There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders’ genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure.
‘Blood libel’? It seems Mrs Palin is better at giving it out than receiving it. Her narcissism shines through this monologue like the sun dazzles eyes on a summer’s day. To compare her minor embarrassment, over an issue she surely brought down on her own head, to that of the Jewish Holocaust, or child sacrifice, is narcissism at its most extreme.
To suggest governments would be unnecessary if we were all righteous angels, displays a sad ignorance of government. A government is a regulatory body set up to run our affairs as efficiently as possible. That it so often fails, has more to do with the ‘special interests’ that infiltrate it for their own purposes rather than any imperfection, or otherwise, of the electorate.
As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, “We know violence isn’t the answer. When we ‘take up our arms’, we’re talking about our vote.” Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box – as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next. That’s who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional.
No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults.
Just days before she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords read the First Amendment on the floor of the House. It was a beautiful moment and more than simply “symbolic,” as some claim, to have the Constitution read by our Congress. I am confident she knew that reading our sacred charter of liberty was more than just “symbolic.” But less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.
Sarah Palin tells the truth of what she said in Arizona last March, but she said it for the same reason she restates it now, because of strong accusations of incitement to violence.
In fact, her full statement was, “And hearing the news reports lately, kind of this ginned up controversy about us common-sense conservatives inciting violence because we happen to oppose some of the things in the Obama administration……we know violence isn’t the answer. When we ‘take up our arms’, we’re talking about our vote……”
At which her Tea Party audience jeered and laughed, and nodded, knowingly.
She’s correct that public discourse and debate certainly isn’t a sign of crisis. However, it doesn’t make America exceptional. Political debate and discourse occurs throughout much of the world, though more often without the veiled hints of violence and aggression so much a part of the Palin philosophy.
It is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values. Recall how the events of 9-11 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security. And so it is today.
Let us honor those precious lives cut short in Tucson by praying for them and their families and by cherishing their memories. Let us pray for the full recovery of the wounded. And let us pray for our country. In times like this we need God’s guidance and the peace He provides. We need strength to not let the random acts of a criminal turn us against ourselves, or weaken our solid foundation, or provide a pretext to stifle debate.
America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner, and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country. May God bless America.
Surely, few need reminding that, close on the events of 9/11 to which Palin refers, it was her Republican party (with the willing assistance of most Democrats) that set about stifling the very values and freedoms to which she alludes. It was called the USA PATRIOT Act, and no-one – Sarah Palin included – fought to stop it. I wonder to which ‘challenge to our values and freedoms’ she refers?
The final two paragraphs of the monologue consist of the usual pseudo-religious claptrap one expects from American politicians and their hangers-on in time of crisis; an over-abundance of ‘prayer’ and ‘God’, though the narcissism can’t be stifled as she compares the tragedy in Tuscon and the ‘mindless finger-pointing “we” endured’, as though equal in severity. (Is that the royal ‘we’, perhaps?)
Try as she might, Palin fails to convince. It’s an attempt at damage limitation, but not a very good one. The evidence is damning. She did not cause the massacre in Tuscon last Saturday, but her part in the irresponsible rhetoric continuously spewed forth by right-wing extremists for no better reason than it provides them lucrative employment, coupled with a misplaced sense of power, cannot be denied.
The one question she failed to answer is the most important question of all. If she had nothing to hide, no sense of guilt, no notion of overstepping the mark; if the cross-hairs on the map were really only “surveyor’s marks” – then why did she consider it necessary to remove that map from her website immediately following the Gabrielle Giffords shooting?
Filed under: Guns Save Lives