Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Reaction to Gabrielle Gifford, Sarah Palin, and Christina Taylor Green

A brief recap for those who haven't heard:

March 2010 - Sarah Palin released an image that listed the names of Democratic Representatives who voted for health care reform in Republican districts. The image further showed a map of the United States with gun crosshairs over the districts of each of the named House Democrats, and advised her supporters to "Take A Stand."

January 8, 2011 - Gabrielle Gifford, the Democratic Representative from Arizona, was shot point-blank in the head by one Jared Lee Loughner. Six other people were killed by the gunman, and 13 were injured. Gifford was among the House Democrats "targeted" on Palin's map.

I don't really want to get into the details of the actual event. Frankly I just don't feel that I'm well enough informed to do so, and there are many sources available online that are better suited to the task. If you would like more information about the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Gifford you can check out some of these sites, or do a Google search. What I would like to talk about is a particular reaction to the news that popped up online.

Independent blogger Obama London was tracking the posts on Sarah Palin's Facebook page following the attack on Gifford, and they noticed something incredible. While the page moderators scrambled to remove posts criticizing Palin and blaming her for the shooting, one commenter posted something beyond abhorrent that the moderators chose not to take down. The post read:

"It's ok. Christina Taylor Green was probably going to end up a left wing bleeding heart liberal anyway. Hey, as 'they' say, what would you do if you had the chance to kill Hitler as a kid? Exactly."

For clarification, Christina Taylor Green was among the six people killed by the gunman who attacked Gifford. Green was nine years old.

I'm not sure what there really is say about that comment individually. It's clearly the product of an extremist with little thought as to the impact of their statement. The author is clearly an aberrant who represents nothing by their own misguided sense of reality. However, that in addition to the discourse that has arisen over the shooting itself give rise to a larger point about the 'us-and-them' mentality that pervades American politics.

In the wake of Gifford's shooting, politicians and commentators alike have sought to push the blame to the other side. On the left side there is the argument that the right needs to stop using violent rhetoric to incite their supporters, as well as the argument that the American gun culture (enshrined by the right) is to blame. Both are valid points. On the other hand, the right (specifically Rush Limbaugh) is accusing the left of shifting the blame away from shooter Jared Lee Loughner in order to make a political point. While it deliberately skirts the issue, there is some misguided truth to that argument too.

The problem is that all of these arguments fail to address the antagonistic atmosphere of American politics that engenders attitudes like the one that approved the death of Christina Taylor Green. The person responsible for that disgusting and reprehensible comment has been so indoctrinated by an us-versus-them mentality that they actually see the death of a child as a good thing, a victory even. All it takes is the thought that Green would grow up to support the other side and suddenly she is an enemy, comparable to the leader of the Nazi Party. Those who are playing the blame game (on the right and left alike) are doing nothing to dispel the culture of hostility that is behind these kinds of attitudes, rather they are encouraging it.

Sarah Palin and the right wing generally are not responsible for the attack on Gabrielle Gifford. Even the crosshairs map, which strains the limits of political discourse and verges on inciting violence, does not direct voters to go out and kill House Democrats. Certainly Palin and her representatives should have exercised more caution, common sense, and compassion before posting such a repugnant piece of political garbage. This critique could be extended generally to the entire spectrum of right wing rhetoricians, and some are soberly acknowledging this fact. However none of this puts blood on their hands, as so many are saying online. Jared Lee Loughner is an individual who is clearly deranged, and no one but him is responsible for his actions. Everyone else should just be united in shock, horror, and sadness at this terrible tragedy.

I wish Gabrielle Gifford and her family the best in this difficult time. My deepest sympathies to the families of the six people killed during the shooting, including Christina Taylor Green.

Update: I just found a video of Jon Stewart saying some very intelligent things on this topic

1 comment:

  1. The trouble is that there is NO possiblity of any logical discussion with people whose belief system is completely devoid of ANY logic.