In the wake of the tragic and cowardly shooting that took place in Arizona over the weekend, it didn’t take long for many conservatives to begin the quick process of separating themselves from any and all possible contributions of motivating this heinous crime.
One of my conservative Facebook friends posted this hours after the shooting:
Here’s a wild and wacky idea – instead of linking the tragedy in Arizona to the Right or Left and trying to score political points off of it, why don’t we have a little sympathy for the victims and hope they fry the psychopath who did this?
I get what he was trying to say. Media can be quick to make connections and jump to conclusions when it comes to sensationalizing a story like this one.
In fairness however, there has been some pretty tough talk and violent rhetoric in recent years from certain segments of the population. I can recall in the last presidential election from many McCain/Palin campaign outings where several supporters would shout rants like, “Off with his head!” when it came to then Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama. I remember that initially team McCain/Palin and their handlers as well as many right-wing pundits dismissed these types of comments as being harmless.
Personally, I felt that while the Republican candidates didn’t literally desire to see harm come to then Senator Obama (some may find that debatable) at the very least the Republicans understood very well that a large portion of their energized voter base were extreme right wingers who held their guns, confederate flags, and racism as close to their hearts as they did their bibles. They didn’t want to turn off that block by confronting them. Eventually McCain had to make some concessions after his poll numbers begin to drop due to these radicals.
Since the new President got into office, the rhetoric has continued, except there has also been some action behind it. To give a few examples:
Rep. Brad Miller of North Carolina was also threatened. Imagine that, supporting a health-care bill can get one killed!
In addition in months past, Rep. John Lewis and Emmanuel Clever were called niggers and Rep Barney Frank a faggot.
A questions being asked now, is whether rhetoric via talking heads and even some of the politicians themselves are contributing to the shootings. Most who believe so don’t mean it in some literal sense as if someone like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin pulled the trigger themselves or hypnotized the murder into committing these heinous acts. Rather an understanding that with the desperation that comes with hard economic times bring about the tendency of needing someone to blame.
Advertisers know in marketing their products successfully, one common theme is finding the right endorser. This helps the product to generate a following. This is why Gatorade and American Express hired Tiger Woods years ago. The thinking is they can pay him $100 million dollars to represent the merchandise because just by his name being attached to it, Americans and beyond would purchase the product – not because it’s a superior product, but because Tiger at least says he drinks it. We know this and yet psychologically we fall for it anyway. Not all the time, but enough to make a killing. (no pun intended)
In the months leading to the 2008 Presidential elections, I often listened to black radio. DJs such as Tom Joyner and Michael Baisden used their influence with listeners to promote voter registration. They went on and on everyday as to why this election was so important after 8 years of George W Bush. As a result, many who normally would not have bothered to take an intense interest in the election did so with anticipation and excitement. The minority vote was epic, as was the vote of the youth. The combination changed the results of the election.
Of course the right has always had their talking heads too. According to Bernard Goldberg, Rush Limbaugh makes a cool $33 million a year to galvanize his listeners. So the evidence is there to suggest that there are varying voices regardless of the rhetoric that Americans find influential. Of course the same could be said about politicians themselves.
With this as a backdrop, I noticed soon after the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and 17 others (6 fatally) including a small child and a federal judge, there were many connections being made to the suspect perhaps being influence by the rhetoric via radio, television or political figures like Sarah Palin. Equally true was that many conservatives made a point to distance themselves as far away from shooter Jared Loughner. This was the epitaph of my Facebook friend mentioned at the beginning. My personal feelings on the matter cause me to take a broader approach that I started by mentioning the radio personalities and product sponsors. I think the best way to view this intelligently is to take a look at ‘like’ circumstances and gauge reactions to similarities based on deductive reasoning and hard-core facts. From that I come up with a list of questions to ask so that you can reflect based on your knowledge and experience of being an American.
1) Do we have military men as well as FBI monitoring websites of hate mongers, religious zealots, and most definitely Muslim extremist? Does the government and it’s citizens believe it’s worth monitoring?
2) Were groups like the Black Panthers targeted by the FBI because of both their rhetoric and arsenal of weapons in times past?
3) If for example, Nation Of Islam Leader Minister Louis Farrakhan used something similar to Sarah Palin’s cross hairs map to target a section of someone’s district politically saying we need to target and ‘get rid’ of that person, and some black guy named Abdullah X shot a public servant in point-blank range along with a group of people similar to what Loughner did, would the Minister be able to separate himself as easily as you see Palin, Beck, and Limbaugh doing now? Would it sit right with you as the Minister explains that Abdullah committed this dastardly wicked deed of his own volition, and was never involved with The Nation at all? Or would you be comfortable with the FBI tearing through the offices of Farrakhan ripping every single computer to look for further possible threats, to destroy his organization.
I believe most readers who answer truthfully know the answers to these questions. With that being said, regardless of what Loughner’s motivation stemmed from in all of it’s destructive glory and varying degrees, the ability for many Caucasians on the right to smoothly separate themselves from these criminals is quite astounding to me; Impressive really. From Abraham Lincoln, to the Kennedys, MLK, and so on, the story of the lone and weird spaced out anti-social vagabond gunman is one that never seems to get old does it? It’s as if saying those very words instantly sanitizes them from the mere thought of consideration.
‘Oh no! No responsibility on MY part! I didn’t kill those people! I don’t subscribe to such vicious violence! Why I never! This is obviously a sick individual who perhaps needed help but certainly couldn’t possibly be spurned on by anything I said.”
I think our culture, our advertising and marketing departments, the hundred of millions of dollars being spent on campaign adds, say something else.
What it says is at the very least, as a nation we cannot continue to throw rocks, hide our hands, and then act with a pompous holy shame when the results of those words, those signs and pictures, the seeds that are being planted come back with strange fruit hanging on the vines. It is simply idiotic to suggest that people want to be leaders, have listeners, gain an audience, carry a local or national message to the hearers, win support, and take credit for such when an election is won but not when a fool goes off and does something reprehensible.
Regardless of the true motivations of one individual, it’s time that we start to re-think and carefully consider what kind of nation we are allowing ourselves to be. And by all means don’t be surprised if we stay on this course when the future brings more of the same. This denial and self protective attitude of embraced ignorance is long past its prime.
Is that lesson ready to be learned by those in denial of this? I doubt it. I just saw an article that Rep. Joe Wilson’s words,‘You lie,” that infamous unprecedented disrespect against President Obama statement is now being engraved on….wait for it….. the AR-15 assault rifle. Oh yea they are only printing a certain amount so that they can be a ‘collectors item’. Folks, that is as subtle as an assault rifles bullet being shot straight at our leader and anyone who supports him. I mean, really? “You lie,” engraved on an assault weapon? And what segment of the population do you think they are targeting for this beast of a weapon? And again I ask what would the nation say if Muslims were engraving AK-47s with the words “Mission Accomplished”, “Jihad!” or “White Devil?”
Take in the brevity of this. The engravings for the AR-15 is not the target of some guy from around the block. We are talking about the current President of these United States of America! Good old fashioned home-grown terrorism right within our midst. Unfortunately many conservatives thinks that’s OK. And yet… they stand poised and ready to distance themselves from the next shooter.