Is It Really That Hard?

I've spent the last two weeks watching the Right's effort to deflect criticism of their use of violent rhetoric over the past two years.  The photo above is one of the least offensive examples of the vitriol.  "Jared Loughner was crazy". That is not in dispute. Of course he's crazy. How could someone wound and murder innocent people, and not be?  Among his nonsensical ramblings, there are statements I've heard from Tea Party members, Libertarians, even skinheads. Here's good example of speaking irresponsibly from thereisnospoon's diary, at the Daily Kos:
Another Ohio Democrat, Steve Driehaus, clashed repeatedly with (John) Boehner before losing his seat in the midterm elections. After Boehner suggested that by voting for Obamacare, Driehaus "may be a dead man" and "can't go home to the west side of Cincinnati" because "the Catholics will run him out of town," Driehaus began receiving death threats, and a right-wing website published directions to his house. Driehaus says he approached Boehner on the floor and confronted him.

"I didn't think it was funny at all," Driehaus says. "I've got three little kids and a wife. I said to him, 'John, this is bullshit, and way out of bounds. For you to say something like that is wildly irresponsible.'"

Driehaus is quick to point out that he doesn't think Boehner meant to urge anyone to violence. "But it's not about what he intended — it's about how the least rational person in my district takes it. We run into some crazy people in this line of work." (emphasis mine)

Driehaus says Boehner was "taken aback" when confronted on the floor, but never actually said he was sorry: "He said something along the lines of, 'You know that's not what I meant.' But he didn't apologize."
Confronted with the obviousness of that appeal, the John Boehners, Sarah Palins, Glen Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world don't apologize.  They just keep the steamroller of hate running right along through Crazytown until somebody inevitably gets hurt.

There are those who have said the the Left is guilty of the same thing, which is patently untrue.  That's not how we Liberal, tree-hugging, granola-crunching, intellectual elitists roll.  If anything, our beliefs are often misinterpreted as a sign of weakness by those on the Right. 

It's not like we didn't see this coming.  If you see someone doing something irresponsible, and you warn them that someone will get hurt if they continue, and your warnings are ignored, and then someone gets hurt, and then those you warned act surprised... Is anyone having trouble following the logic?

I have no doubt that, at some point during the past two years, someone in some boardroom somewhere said, "Won't some crazy person take what we've said as a call to do harm?"  That person probably wasn't employed long after that, because the response was probably, "So the mentally ill are our responsibility now?  It's not our fault if someone takes our hate speech opinions and misconstrues them."

This is not about what the shooter is or is not, from a purely political point of view.  He's a nutcase.  This is the Becking of America: the promotion of hate speech to provoke the irrational into violent conduct, while giving the promoter plausible deniability.  After all, that's not what they meant, right?

I blather...

I made the "comment of the week" section of the Tucson Weekly again.  The only touchy-feely, life-affirming moment I've had in the last two years, and I have to write it down. 


Now I'm going to have to find a gratuitous car chase on TV, or figure out some other way to express some appropriate political incorrectness, just to get the taste outta my mouth. 

The Weekly edited my comment for length (in addition to being touchy-feely and life-affirming, it was also a bit wordy).  It's here.

The full text was part of an earlier blog post here.

Don't say I didn't warn ya.

Time and Distance

So, we have a little over a week's worth of distance from this tragedy. One goes through certain stages in a situation like this. Shock, disbelief and grief initially. Then anger and outrage, aggravated as I witnessed the transparent attempt by those on the right to deflect blame from themselves, and assign it to others. It only got worse as the days wore on.

There was Sarah Palin's video (which I could only watch in 30 second intervals, punctuated by a lot of drinking.), in which she portrayed herself as the true victim in all of this. It was such an embarrassing, self-serving display of insensitivity, that any presidential aspirations she may have had probably ended right there. Then again, Arizona recently elected a governor who can barely form complete sentences, and those she can form are often lies. I never underestimate stupidity. Palin's latest quote is, "I will not shut up!" There's a surprise.

Then there was Trent Humphries, co-founder of the Tucson Tea Party, who had the distinction of being the first person of the extreme right to actually blame the victims for the crime against them (I would have bet money on Fox). Immediately after which, he began to express fear for the safety of himself, the Tea Party, and his family (in that order, I assume). Before this, many, including myself, hadn't even heard of him. I believe his initial inflammatory statements were designed, at least in part, to rectify that situation. The most recent incident happened at a town hall meeting, at which Eric Fuller, one of the victims of the shooting, was arrested after taking a picture of Humpries, and muttering "Your dead." It's my belief that Mr. Fuller should have stayed home. The trauma of being shot, and watching those around him brutally murdered was only a few days old, and I think he was still in shock. I also believe that Mr. Humpries knew this, and deliberately provoked a man he knew to be in a fragile state of mind. When Humphries was asked if he wanted to press charges, he declined (smartest move yet).

"I am more worried about our community," he said. "This doesn't need to be about Trent Humphries. This doesn't need to be about politics."

Right. What is it with sociopaths always referring to themselves in the third person?

I could call Humphries a subhuman slug, but it would be doing a disservice to slugs everywhere.

There are others. Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, all whose comments I found to be offensive and tiresome.

It's my belief that everyone of conscience, no matter their ideology, asked themselves the same thing at some point after the shooting:

"Did I do anything to contribute to this?"

In the end, the answer isn't nearly as important as having the decency to ask the question in the first place. And in what may be the few positive things to come out of this, it became painfully easy to spot those who didn't look inward. Whose first thought was to protect themselves and their ideologies. They fear to look into their own hearts, because of what looks back at them from the darkness. It is, more than anything over the last two years, the greatest measure of their lack of integrity and character. And that's a good thing.

Because now we know who they truly are.

Oh, Me of Little Faith

I believe in religious freedom, though I am, myself, an atheist. I can honestly say that I would protect, with my life if necessary, my neighbor's right to believe according to the dictates of their conscience. I do this partly because I think it is my duty as a citizen. If I don't love your freedom as I do my own, then none of us is free, and freedom itself becomes a lie. My other reason is enlightened self-interest. I know that the same laws that protect a person's right to believe, also protect my right not to. Such was the wisdom of those in the beginning.

But I am not completely devoid of belief. I believe that there is some good in everyone. Intellectually, of course, I know this not to be true. Evil exists, and it's sources are as varied as humanity itself. And at the end of the day, there is no Karma -- nothing to magically set things right with the universe.

This delusional belief in the goodness of humanity is something I cling to, because it protects me against what I've all too often witnessed as the dreariness, the hopelessness, and the futility of the human condition. The lack of compassion. The inability to imagine oneself in another's shoes. The willingness to, without hesitation or regret, give up the lives of your countrymen to protect your own. These are character traits that are, at best, dishonorable.

As of late, I've had some trouble with reality. Not its absence, but its intrusion. What little faith I hold is shaken, and I have no idea how to fix it. I've resolved to try and be more kind and patient with those around me. I'm not sure it will help, but I'm pretty certain that will do no harm.

So, you may find me somewhat less than "chipper" in the coming days. I've no doubt that will come as a relief to some of you. Enjoy it while it lasts. To the others, it is my hope that you also find me worthy of your patience.

I wrote the above on a piece of paper at work this morning. It was not a good day, and it got no better as it wore on.

When I moved here three years ago, something odd happened. For the first time in almost a half century of existence, I felt a sense of community. I can see now why people find the concept so appealing. I have friends, a job, and a great fondness for my employers, my co-workers, and my customers.

There is, of course, a down side. When one becomes emotionally invested in a place and it's people, and harm comes to them, their pain becomes your own. You feel grief...and rage. I've felt it to a certain extent all day.

One the way home from work, I passed by the office of Gabrielle Giffords. I saw the people, the signs, the candles, and the rage and grief came anew.

Jared Loughner is someone who malfunctioned beyond any hope of rehabilitation or redemption. The greatest kindness we could give him would be a quick death. But at the moment, kindness is the last thing I feel. I know that in this world, there are worse things than death. Some of these things, I've been unfortunate enough to witness. It is my hope that before he dies, Jared Loughner experiences every one of them.

The rage will pass, and the words I write now will shame me. Rightly so. But perhaps by the act of writing them, I can rid myself of this wretched feeling.

But...not yet.

Saturation of stupidity

Yesterday, at a local Safeway, a disturbed young man shot a number of people, including Rep. Gabielle Giffords, federal judge John Roll, and a nine-year-old child. I didn't comment. Partly because I wanted more information, but mostly I was too angry and heartsick to form coherent thoughts.

From what I've read, and the YouTube videos I've seen, Jared Loughner was a disturbed individual, and quite probably mentally ill. Because of this, I'm told that I should not consider this a politically motivated act.


Rep. Giffords' office is just around the corner from where I live. During the health care debate, there were Tea Party picketers on that corner, as was their right. But their shouts at passing cars, and the signs they carried were troubling and offensive. After the vote on health care, her offices were vadalized. During the mid-terms, her political opponent's Tea Party followers placed signs across the street that came strategically short of promoting direct physical violence.

For the last two years, we've been inundated by the right with lies, omissions, and ad hominem attacks. And I'm not even counting the clinically insane things said, which served only to gain or divert attention. Fox news' unending string of propaganda does a huge disservice to those who naively look to them for actual news. They know this. How could they not?

To Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin and all the corporate ghouls that control them, hate is just another commodity to be packaged and sold to the masses.

You can't saturate a nation with this sort of stupidity, and not expect someone, mentally ill or not, to react to it.

Now it has come to this. We live in a nation where a valid argument against one's opponent is that he is too smart. A nation where a significant percentage of people consider quantifiable, demonstrable proof of something to be merely opinion. A nation that rewrites it's own history when it makes them uncomfortable. A nation that changes it's constitution when they find it to be inconvenient. A nation that values expediency over what is right.

And, perhaps someday, a nation of people no longer worthy of their liberty.

A New Year's resolution

I hope the holidays were kind to everyone.  I don't usually do new year's resolutions, as they usually just end up being yet another reason to beat myself up over the course of the coming year.  However, this year is different.   The following chart sums up how I intend to handle future debates with anyone about anything.

With thanks to the Daily Kos.