"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

With Apologies: Politics Again

I'm not usually overtly political in this forum, but I feel unable to sit quiet regarding the events in Tucson: The attempted assassination of a sitting U.S. congresswoman, presumably for her political beliefs, and the "collateral damage" of six innocent people, including a nine year old girl. Following is the text of a letter I wrote to Joel Connelly, a longtime columnist to the Seattle Times, who wrote a creditable piece on the rise of violent rhetoric in American politics. Editorials | Reject poisonous political rhetoric | Seattle Times Newspaper

My letter:

The scuttling of the the hard right to take cover behind pious words would be funny to watch if it weren't so calculated and disingenuous. They know as well as you and I do that their words are not innocuous. Every genocide of modern times has been preceded by a long period of ramping up of violent rhetoric towards the eventual victims. In Rwanda particularly, radio personalities and talking heads spent many many hours exhorting the public to murder. Not that I think the U.S. is on the brink of a domestic holocaust or anything, but the American people need to be reminded that before atrocities can take place, a climate of hatred and justification of violence must first be created. And the Right is working overtime to create such a climate.

I especially fear the incredibly incendiary language used against undocumented immigrants and their children. Many on the Right have been consciously constructing a culture of dehumanization against them, comparing them to livestock or to dogs (when talking about electrified fences and microchips), and attempting to strip Latino babies of their natural-born citizenship. I hate to admit it, but I can easily see a massive roundup and deportation campaign reminiscent of the Japanese internment camps of WWII. Concentration camps on the American landscape may seem farfetched, but not when you meditate on Sherrif Arapaio's circus in the desert and his staged forced marches of Mexican prisoners through the streets of Phoenix, where they are subject to the revilement and abuse of ordinary Americans. That such things can take place in this country without provoking massive outrage makes me both frightened and sad.

Aimee Day

Friends, I urge you not to remain silent about racism, political extremism, sexism, expressions of hatred or exhortations to violence. Most of us, like myself, have a very small pulpit, but whatever platform you have, be it as humble as the family dinner table, please use it to promote peace. No cause is so exalted as to justify assassination; no righteous ideology demands violence.

Peace be upon you,



AnyEdge said...

While I agree that there is a great deal of inflamed rhetoric, I don't agree with the implication by omission that it is only on the right. Violent, angry rhetoric was seen regularly from the left in suggestions that George W. Bush be assassinated, or that McCain could serve the country best by dying.

I further disagree that this act can be legitimately seen as anything but a deeply disturbed man who, yes, seems, rather incoherently, to have been inspired by some of the vile right wing rhetoric, but who in actuality appears to be primarily incompetant to understand politics.

I don't disagree with what you've written (except in degree.). But I also think that your note tries to cast all the blame on those with whom you disagree, rather than looking also at the equally violent and disgusting talking points of those who espouse political opinions that you approve of, rather than dislike.

Andy Brown said...


I'm glad you wrote your letter. A million small platforms can have an impact. And I think you're exactly right that there is an attempt to lay a groundwork for more attacks on immigrants and other handy targets.


With all due respect, violent, angry, extreme rhetoric is woven into the current Republican and Tea Party approach in a way that can't be seen among Democrats. It is not even close to being equivalent. It's not Aimee's biases that cause her to draw her conclusion - it's simply that central characters on one side have tolerated (and in many cases made active use of) extremes of rhetoric that appeal to unbalanced individuals.

AnyEdge said...

It is true that the sort of rhetoric normally associated with an extreme political movement has infiltrated the mainstream on the right in particularly concerning ways at the moment. And yes, at the moment seems less evident among the Democratic party.

However, using the actions of a clearly mentally ill person to score politcal points against those with whom you disagree is action in furtherance of rhetorical malfeasance, not appropriate addess thereof.

Joanna@BooneDocksWilcox said...

The last paragraph from AnyEdge sums it up for me. The shooter is terribly ill.

Aimee said...

Bro -

certainly the left has had it's share of extremists, but I honestly cannot recall a single quote from anyone on the left calling for violence and killing nor purposefully dehumanizing groups of people, whereas I can quote all day people like Glenn Beck, Limbaugh, Tancredo, etc, calling Mexicans animals and suggesting that they be shot, electrocuted, microchipped, imprisioned, denied basic human rights, and more.

I don't want to get into a quote fight - it's a waste of time. I am perfectly willing to admit there are a few left-wing whackos out there. But in the last ten years, violent imagery and racism has crept into the mainstream of the right end of the political spectrum in a way it hasn't on the left. And I fear it, greatly. Feel free to fear the left, if you want, but I can't see why.

Placing all the blame on the disturbed individual (yes, certainly he appears to be as crazy as the day is long) is a cop-out. It's like yelling fire in a crowded theater. What these elements on the right have done is fight to arm every Tom Dick and Harry all over the landscape, point out who ought to be killed, and them exclaim in horror when somebody gets shot. It's calculated and about as genuine as a three dollar bill.

AnyEdge said...

I'm not trying to place a false equivalency here, which is why I stipulate that the mainstream right has a problem with tolerance of extremists in their midst right now.

But these things are not uncommon at all on the left. As recently as the 1970's most domestic terrorism was leftist (in name), and even today, there is plenty of leftist domestic terror on the part of Earth First! and anarchic 'leftists' who smashed up Seattle and Toronto during recent G8 meetings. Though there have not been assassinations associated with those groups that I know of.

Whenever a person takes the position that 'all the extremists and terrorists are on the other side', they're wrong.

The GOP and other right leaning organizations should not be proud of themselves today. But the blame belongs with Mr. Laughner.

AnyEdge said...

Please note, I know that you didn't say that 'all the extremists are on the other side'. But I have seen a lot of that on the internet with regard to this.

Michele B said...

Beautifully written Aimee. Thank you for being willing to use your talents as an advocate.