Smart v. Stupid
Is it time to dump right-wing rhetoric down the drain?
Anarchists, libertarians, and conservatives - right-wingers all - are trying to take our country away from us. As long as I have a breath and a rifle, those who want to destroy America will not prevail. Just as our fathers fought to protect our freedom in the Great War, sons of liberals everywhere must gather our armies. We must now rise to defeat and destroy those who would dismantle the American Great Society. Good Americans everywhere need to lock and load!
You might find that paragraph both idiotic and outrageous. I agree. I don’t actually believe any of it. But fearmongers on the right are now claiming that liberal rhetoric is just as toxic as theirs. If it was, this is what it would look like. The take away message is that this is the first time you’ve read anything remotely like it.
Conservatives of all stripes are frantically engaged in an effort to separate their toxic rhetoric from the massacre in Tucson. They aren’t afraid of being a cause of the carnage. (And there is no direct link that we know of.)
They are afraid that the slayings will make hyperbolic mudslinging unacceptable to most Americans. If that happens, the right wing is sunk.
Simply put, no liberal idea is as awful or as apocalyptic as they claim. There is no un-American cabal of citizen-traitors bent on destroying our way of life. The right’s biggest fear is that we will figure this out. Imagine if they could no longer operate the outrage factory. Without the blindness of outrage, they’ve got nothing.
Conservatives are also hell bent to convince you that left is just as violent as the right. There is no evidence of that either. It’s a ridiculous assertion recently tackled by blogger Greg Cornell. His chart is sunshine on this big stinking pile of manure.
Some liberals — most of whom are Christians — seem perfectly willing to accept the “we’re all sinners” biblical viewpoint. But we’re not all sinners. Politically violent rhetoric today, like political violence, is the provenance of the right – only the right. Before we forgive them, a little naming and shaming is in order.
Sarah Palin’s target map is now infamous. Sharron Angle’s call for “second amendment remedies” is equally so. But you don’t have to travel nearly so far from Tucson to find violent rhetoric. It turns out you don’t even need to leave Gabby Giffords’ congressional district.
When Palin targeted Congresswoman Giffords and admonished her fans to “reload,” she endorsed the Tea Party-backed Republican, Jesse Kelly. Kelly’s campaign posters featured him posing with an M-16. He told right-wing rag World Net Daily, “They're destroying this nation, and while I'm still breathing, I will not let it happen. It's time to be ‘in your face.’” His campaign events included a meet the candidate mixer advertised as “Get on Target for Victory in November.” Ads for it included “Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office, shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.” No kidding.
The day after the shootings, Machine Gun Kelly shut down his website and put up a condolence message. Like Palin, the big brave shooter-patriot went into hiding. Palin recently stuck her head out to blame the media. But we’ve heard nary a peep from Kelly.
Purveyors of toxic rhetoric argue that if one can’t prove a linear connection directly between Palin, Angle, and Kelly, they bear no responsibility.
But any time leaders are calling for one group of Americans to overthrow another one, any time politicians call for “second amendment remedies” for a loss at the ballot box, and any time a politician combines “destroying the nation” with “my opponents” it taints the air we all breathe.
When public figures promote the notion of war between Americans, killing one seems a little more normal to someone who is a little more crazy. Timothy McVeigh and his militia buddies taught us that.
Jesse Kelly (and his buddies in Vegas and Wasilla) may not be guilty in the Tucson shootings, but they are surely not innocent either. Only those who didn’t aim to foment outrage can rightly claim to be innocent. We should not be so quick to overlook what these opportunists said, or to forgive their bad acts.
Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”