I have listened and watched with some disbelief over the last week and a half to the angry and hurtful debate over the Arizona shooting incident. Now that the dust is starting to settle, I wish to add my own perspective.
It seems to have ended with the left generally accepting some responsibility for their bad decision to rush to judgment blaming the right for inciting violence as a result of inflammatory rhetoric which they originally claimed to be a likely cause for the killer’s actions. They seem now to be taking on the identity of the “tolerant ones.” They regret that a few from their ranks lashed out with reckless blame initially, but see the whole horrible incident as the perfect opportunity to have a great discussion on the tone of political speech. Surely such circumstances have helped to lay the perfect groundwork for this high brow discussion. They hope you understand there will be no need to dwell on attacks made by some of their more outspoken colleagues; and that any defensiveness from the right will not be tolerated! They insist that we must sit still as they imply that we should all just be glad that it wasn’t the rhetoric from the right that instigated this violence, because even though it hasn’t happened yet, inevitably it will. This unless of course we – as their political adversaries, choose to follow their overall example of being more disciplined, and discontinue saying hateful things that offend them, or things in which they are not receptive.
The right on the other hand was greatly offended and understandably upset by the implication from the left that they were the reason that innocent people were murdered and defended themselves vehemently. They reacted to the tsunami of criticism that was poured out upon them, and in particular the direct assault aimed at a few pundits, politicians and media figures, most notably Sarah Palin. She was taken to task because of her political map using crosshairs to target voting districts. Initially she was criticized for being “out on the lamb” for not responding to the charges leveled against her. She was then criticized all the more when she finally did respond; this isn’t about her they angrily charged. From the lefts point of view she is galvanizing, crude, and hateful. Surely her, and the likes of her, are the reason that Paul Krugman and others would come to the conclusion that she was capable of causing the weak minded to kill. Sara Palin was insulted, demeaned, and once again labeled as ignorant. She became the reason for their justified anger.
Then came the memorial service, President Obama fittingly used his office as an occasion not only to honor the slain, but also to encourage civility. I thought some of the most beautiful words of the speech were: “… at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do, it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.” I looked up from doing the dishes when I heard those words coming from the TV. Having just tragically lost a family member, I connected with the combined feelings of being wounded by this family member’s untimely death, and the war of words that had broken out across the country following a senseless act of violence and murder. Was it too much to hope for? Would it be possible for us all to stop condemning others who think differently than we do and begin to replace words that wound, with words that heal?
I’m not sure I will ever understand all the reasons that others think differently than me. I think some of it is cultural. I am sorry that some are offended by Sarah Palin type metaphors. To me these comparisons are completely benign. I don’t say this for the purpose of initiating or continuing this argumentative debate about words, but only to help you understand my point of view. I don’t believe using crosshairs to pin point voting districts was ever meant to incite anger and certainly not gun violence. I agree with Charles Krauthammer who said: “…the charge that the metaphors used by Palin and others were inciting violence is ridiculous”. “…fighting and warfare are the most routine of political metaphors. And for obvious reasons. Historically speaking, all democratic politics is a sublimation of the ancient route to power – military conquest. That’s why the language persists. That’s why we say without any self-consciousness such things as “battleground states” or “targeting” opponents. Indeed, the very word for an electoral contest – “campaign” – is an appropriation from warfare.” Alas, I can’t be that far off, even Joy Behar seems to share in this opinion. This week on “The View” Ms. Behar commented: “You go on stage – as comedians we say, how did you do? Well, I killed -you can’t say that anymore, it’s stupid.”
I really believe that political correctness has gone too far, even to the point of being silly, like when I hear people apologizing now on some networks because the word crosshairs slipped out – they promise never, ever, to do it again. I believe there really are some who find such speech inappropriate, but I am more inclined to believe that most fight it because it was adopted by that “Mama Grizzly” who just won’t back down. So many have made it part of their life’s work to marginalize her and expose her as unrefined, lacking in learning and intelligence, and therefore not deserving of a prominent position on the political scene, but she just won’t go away!
The key here is that there really is a lot we don’t understand about each other, I don’t understand so much about you, and you don’t understand so much about me, but I believe we are all God’s children, and we all share our lives together on this beautiful earth. Psalms 119:165 reads: “Great peace have they which love thy law and nothing shall offend them.” May we all strive to live together in greater peace and understanding.