Saturday, January 15, 2011

Political Vitriol and Society’s Fringe Element

S. Paul Forrest

I am fully in favor of free speech and the right of media to make any political statement they desire but like all speech, there are consequences to consider especially when preparing a campaign of finger pointing for delivery to the public ear. In the wake of the Arizona terrorist attack, calls are going out for increased gun control, less abrasive rhetoric as well as the right to continue our guarantee of free speech. Many, including myself, have attempted to use it in the continuing political drama but a time for reason has come. It seems fitting that President Obama’s speech at the memorial Wednesday night initiated a such a return. How long it lasts remains to be seen.

First and foremost, the last two years of our political energy has gone toward the slandering of politicians. From the Tea Party to the Democrats, the Republicans to the Independents, the spectrum of rhetoric has become so vibrant that even the most creative of writers stand in awe at the fantastic plots unfolding on a daily basis. Politics has become a mini series of sorts. Like in the days of Dallas, we conscientious Americans rush to the television each night to discover the newest twists in the plot. The unfortunate reality though, is instead of J.R.,14 people were shot and 6 others had their flame extinguished from this life.

Granted some of the “negative rhetoric” or “vitriol” preceding the events of January 11th which many point to as the catalyst to the events of that day, is based on the real concerns of America going to the Marxists or the corporations buying representation but when the talk turns to ultimatums of response by the viewer or meant to sway opinion to condemn one politician or another, the distinction needs to be made between it being as a story line and not a real call to arms. People like Laughner however, operating from the fringe of reality, do not make this distinction.

The recent attack in Arizona on Congress woman Gabriel Giffords which wounded she and 13 others and resulted in the unfortunate murders of six Americans was more than symbolic of the atmosphere of hate that seems to be inundating our American media, it stands as a shot of reality in the arm of a country that has been torn apart by partisan vitriol.

As James Viser states so well in his piece “Extremism at Fever Pitch”,
“It may be that Laughner, like other like-minded extremists, believe that a violent act against the government by their hand will precipitate a second civil war between conservative so-called "patriots" and the federal government (including anyone who disagrees with them). This was the motivation of Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols when they detonated a huge bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 innocent people, including 19 children under the age of six.”

One can say that in a sane world, it is mildly amusing to put cross hairs on a map to depict people to combat in the political fight. It is mildly amusing to say the White House is being taken over by a Marxist and we must defend the country against him; in a sane world. It is even somewhat amusing to say we must adjust the course of this country from the path of decline at all costs; in a sane world. The problem comes with the understanding that this is NOT always a sane world. There are those people like Jared Lee Laughner do not understand it is just a political game. These people see all this talk of taking down the opposition as an all-too-real problem in the survival of this nation and possibly, as a call to action.

Some questions still dwell within my mind: Did Laughner take this action to defend our Nation against these fictitious attacks on our freedoms or did he plan a shooting just to be famous in this ever evolving, American mini-series? I often wonder if he believes that he is a hero for doing what he did. I suppose we will never actually know but in light of the attack we can all agree that what matters is getting back on track and working toward solving the problems facing America instead of feeding the problem.

I thoroughly enjoy the challenges I impose upon myself to stay up with the plot but I do not believe that I am being called upon by the Right to shoot people because of cross hairs on a map. I am also not being called to march on FOX Studios wearing a gun belt because of Left’s disagreement. Yes, some of the people who make accusations of Marxism infiltrating the country or warn us of losing our freedoms actually want us to believe the plot to turn our vote but who, in their right mind (or in my case, left mind), would take up arms and shoot a Senator while they are in a group of citizens?

In the case of Laughner and others out there like him, they already have guns in their hands waiting for these fictitious marching orders. Pres Barack Obama speaking about Republicans, June 13, 2008 said, "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun."; Sarah Palin called for us called to us not to “retreat but reload” and Rush has said, “we have to defeat these bastards, we need to wipe them out.” It all adds to the problem.

Rather like a hunter in the woods looking for prey, the sights of the insane are trained on the horizon and when movement occurs, they concentrate their attention there. This is what I believe occurred with Laughner. Figuratively speaking, he already had his gun drawn and was looking to the horizon. A target presented itself with the vitriol from the political landscape and the source of the most movement or commentary, drew his sights.

I would like to begin being more positive but feel hindered in a world where the accusations of liberal extremism and attacks on our constitution are the reasons given to Americans to vote republican but as a left wing liberal, I cannot help but speak up in defense of my political affiliations. Many have said that Laughner’s state of mind was evident from his postings and ramblings on politics. With this in mind, I have to make the following observation: The Tea Party and Right are currently fighting to do away with the so called Nanny State in America. Some of the programs within this realm are those that may have been able to recognize and treat Laughner and could in the future, avert another case. Doing away with these programs is a mistake. Ironic, isn’t it?

I think it important to be clear though; The Tea Party along with Sarah Palin, are not the ones at fault here. The Democratic National Commitee had a similar map posted in 2004 so blaming them alone is a nothing more than a partisan ploy to yet again shift blame. The reality is that we all had a part in this debacle. Each of us contributors, we passionate people of the political landscape, all contributed to that sad day. In fact, in the wake of this tragedy, I wrote an article which was an attack on the rhetoric of the right but the good people at Activist Post told me they felt it was inappropriate. It’s too bad Laughner didn’t have such reasoned voices to correct his thoughts.

The recent attack in Arizona which wounded 14 people and resulting in the unfortunate deaths of six Americans was more than symbolic of the atmosphere of hate that seems to be present in American media; it stood as a shot of reality in the arm of a country that has been torn apart by partisan vitriol. The sad death of a bright nine year old, a Federal Judge and the nearly fatal shot to the head of a member of Congress is indeed a tragedy. We would all be served to head the words of our President:
“For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind.

So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

But what we can't do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

This was a solid, realistic and yes, Presidential statement. In a time of trouble he rose to bring a Nation together as a President should.

I do hope We the People can come together on this fictitious battlefield and talk about the issues in a more reasoned tone and some of the vitriol that has overpowered our media, ebb. It is not helpful to show a backdrop of Stalin to denounce the democratic agenda nor should we be saying the republicans are selling out our nation to corporate interests depicting a violent act as the only way to stop it from happening. Don’t be mistaken, the insane of this world are in the woods with sites wandering. It would be wise to remember, as we prepare our news reports and/or writings, the following simple reality: Ratings are not as important as human lives.

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