Dissent is part of democracy. Hate and fiery rhetoric may be part of free speech. Getting angry and acting on that anger or encouraging others to act on the anger is not democracy. Tragedies like what happened in Tucson on Saturday always tend to bring up a few topics (1) gun control; (2) mental illness and (3) “free” speech. This time in the early unfolding of the events of Saturday in Arizona, Sarah Palin’s name came up in reference for a web page she put up 10 months ago “targeting” with cross hairs those congressional seats that were problematic or had voted for the “republic-ending” health care bill. Co-incidentally or not, Gabrielle Giffords district was targeted. It is an easy thing to draw attention, especially if one really dislikes Sarah Palin, to the obvious connection between the web page and the shooting. That’s the easy part. The hard part is walking the language back a bit and taking a closer look at who was the shooter. Was he a Tea Party member? Probably not. Was he a Sarah Palin admirer? We don’t know. What is be frustrating for all of us is the “unknown” parts of this story. We would like to tie all the facts up in a bow and place them at the foot of extremist on the right. I don’t see that happening. It probably isn’t the time for the attempted linkage. What is the time for is addressing how we in the last 10 or so years and especially the last year and a half have carried on our political conversation.
The main-stream media is not NBC or the Washington Post or even the New York times. Who owns 90+% of the radio airways? Radio that spews outrageous and inflammatory rhetoric belongs almost exclusively to the right wing and I won’t call them conservatives because they really don’t know the true meaning of the word. They defend themselves when something like the event in Tucson happens stepping away from the microphone telling us they have nothing to do with the event and have a right to say whatever crap they do hiding behind the constitution and the first amendment. As Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said in his news conference before we knew much about the shooter, reminded all of us that free speech has its consequences. We have seen over the past year and a half the response from people at town hall meetings who have been stirred up with repeated messages that the nation is turning socialist and communist and that Barrack Obama is the anti-Christ or Hitler. If one hears this enough times one begins to believe it. It’s a form of brainwashing so much so that people who stand up to this toxic rhetoric are often vilified and condemned. Is this really helpful? Is this the way free speech should be? Probably not. Common sense says that violent speech in the worse case scenarios begets violent actions sometimes. Watching people some with guns strapped to their legs and inflammatory signs in their hands assemble on the Washington mall to hear the conspirator in chief’s anti-gospel message that the country is heading for the abyss tells me that most of the folks there, not all, have given over their free-will to this demagogue of the airwaves (one of many) and have submitted themselves to intellectual slavery. They have handed over willingly one of their most precious abilities as humans, their ability to think. These folks on TV or hate radio are not helping this country nor its people with their hyperbolic rants. Dissent is one thing, vitriol is quite something else. The government is prohibited from muffling free speech or expression or freedom of assembly, but we aren’t. Turn the dial, get out of your rut, maybe listen to the Grateful Dead. You’ll feel better.
Below are the victims killed on Saturday:
Judge John Roll (63) – US District Court Judge
Dorwin Stoddard (76) – Protected his wife from the gunman
Christina-Taylor Green (9) – Born on 9/11 – “Faces of Hope Baby”
Gabe Zimmerman (30) – Ms Giffords’ aid who organized the event at Safeway
Dorothy Murray (76) – Retiree
Phyllis Schneck (79) – Retiree
and so it goes…