The story dominating American conversation this week is the tragedy in Tucson, Arizona. In shock, after a mentally troubled assassin named Jared Lee Loughner shoots a round from his 9mm Glock through the brain of beloved Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and then turns his weapon on the crowd and kills 6 bystanders while wounding 13 others — America mourns.
Giffords is alive today and fighting for her life, the extent of the damage caused by her wound still unknown. There are positive signs, and we can all be thankful for that. But there are 6 people who will never breathe another breath, amongst them a federal judge and a 9 year old girl named Christina Taylor Green.
President Obama, speaking at the memorial services held at the University of Arizona, attempted to call all Americans to a higher principle. He asked us to imagine our democracy through the eyes of a child, to recall the hope and awe it inspired in our own childhoods, to behold it as did Christina Green. The President spoke to the soul of America and shared his vision, “I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.”
These were moving moments in the shadow of a national tragedy. The President was truly presidential, and for the most part, was recognized as such by pundits of all political persuasions. Even relentless Obama antagonist, Glenn Beck was moved by the speech, saying that “This is probably the best speech he has ever given, and with all sincerity, thank you Mr. President, for becoming the president of the United States of America last night.” But as well received as the President’s solemn call was, the reception was far from all positive.
Fox News contributor, Michelle Malkin, who live-blogged the memorial, called it a “bizarre pep rally.” Steve Doocy, of Fox and Friends, said the event “seemed like a political rally.” Both complained about the “Together We Thrive” branding that was labeled by the Red State blog as “the Marxist message behind the memorial.”
Many were the conservative voices who found fault with the President’s speech or were quick to cast him as a “political opportunist,” proving to some degree that it really doesn’t matter what the man does. But the pond scum moment from the right has to be Rush Limbaugh’s criticism of the President for suggesting that American “society is not all together what it should be” and that we have any “duty to live up to” the “dreams and expectations” of a “nine year old little girl who was snuffed out.”
Perhaps Limbaugh and others are to be forgiven for spinning this tragedy for their own gain while accusing the President of doing the same, because that is the way the game is played in 21st Century America. But the unanimity on the right in denying any potential influence born of the vitriolic rancor that pervades our political discourse is beyond comprehension.
The fact is that Sarah Palin published a map that had gun-sight crosshairs targeted at Gabrielle Giffords. The half-term Alaskan governor who’s famous for saying “Don’t Retreat: Reload,” the woman who announced the map as the “first salvo,” now wants us to believe the symbols were surveyor’ sights. Now, isn’t that just a bit suspicious?
Palin is a key voice in the divisive fear-mongering that plagues our nation. From her “death panel” rhetoric to her narcissistic response to the Tucson tragedy, she has proven repeatedly that she’s a one trick pony with a wafer-thin comprehension of anything beyond the art of whipping up emotions. For Palin or any of her fright-wing allies to deny any culpability whatsoever in events born of the atmosphere of hate and mistrust bred by their self-serving rain of incendiary lies and distortions is patently absurd. It’s akin to shouting fire in a crowded assembly and accepting no responsibility for the toll of the ensuing stampede.
The truth of the matter is that there are consequences of our actions — all of our actions. You can’t shout fire and insulate yourself from the results, neither can you label the opposition as the “enemy,” replete of any redeeming quality and expect to incite anything but hatred. When people like Rush Limbaugh cast all liberals as evil, when the Sharron Angles of our country speak of Second Amendment remedies, when even a clarion call from President Obama for unity in the face of tragedy is labeled “socialist,” a line has been crossed. When people are cast in the same light as the most despicable of villains, charged with “government takeovers” that threaten to bring about Armageddon, when they are washed in hate and labeled with every epithet of the worst of humankind — there are consequences.
Our nation has lost its ability to deal with issues in an intelligent manner because of the polarization brought about by rhetoric so heated that the eventual outcome was guaranteed. The question has long been when, not if, violence would occur. The writing has been on the wall for quite some time, as evidenced by Gabrielle Giffords’ prediction of her own tragic shooting when Palin’s target map first appeared.
Nobody has accused Sarah Palin of causing the shooting in Tucson, and no responsible person would do so. Responsibility for that crime lies with a deranged murderer who sits in an Arizona jail. But Palin, Limbaugh, Bachmann, Beck and all the other voices of division, fear and hatred are responsible for creating an environment where such tragedies are much more likely to occur. There’s really no legitimate debate on the topic. The only real question is will they continue, and if they do, when will the next calamity strike.