By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
The Giffords Discourse
My primary computer went in for repairs yesterday and I have, not unintentionally, stayed offline.
I think that 85% of the conversation in the last thread was completely worth having.
Here is my thought… the rhetoric from both sides of the aisle, particularly from the party without the presidency in hand, gets extreme and stupid. George W. Bush was not The Devil and his relative position amongst presidents is an issue to be better considered from a distance.
But the level and tone of the rhetoric from the right in the last few years, starting at the McCain/Palin rallies and onwards, has a very strong undercurrent of violence, the suggestion of violent overthrow, and a constant heartbeat of “them vs us.” Even on the most extreme tips of the left, represented by Kos and occasionally Michael Moore, may hit some of this harshness, but it never (in recent history) has been mainstreamed into the politics of the party the way it has been by the right.
So this shooter may just be another 20something who lost his shit in a profound way trying to transition into grown up life and killed a bunch of people. He may even lean left. He may have nothing to do with Sarah Palin, tea partiers, or whatever else.
To blame this on anyone specifically on the right in a “blood on their hands” way would be too specific. But to dismiss the culture of rage that has been encouraged on the right, including the gun culture – have we heard what kind of weapon this guy shot 15 people with before being tackled – is equally foolhardy.
Leadership has become invisible. It is time for the right to stop putting elections ahead of morality and to stop catering to, even encouraging, the worst nature of people. Fox News wants to spin all day? I say, “Fine.” Just don’t make stuff up and continue to indulge extremists, like The Birthers, with a wink. You want to make the argument that we would be better off with smaller government? Great! But when you call the other side “socialists” for voting for most of the same packages that support Americans through hard times and old age, you are not arguing what you believe (or claim to believe), you are just trying to put a target – sometimes literally – on the back of another politician.
The sad truth is, the difference between Republican and Democrat, politically, in this country, is marginal. It may seem extreme when Republicans openly say they’ll shut down the government over a 3% tax break for the top 10% of wealthy Americans, but think about how marginal that issue really is.
So we have come down to branding. Hope and Change and the smart guy who has visions of a better world and articulates them beautifully and Grizzly Moms and Tea Partiers and Guns and Anti-Immigration and the ABT (Anything But Them) platform. At least that is the current incarnation.
And each side defends its brand as befits the brand, scared to let it go for even a minute, lest the audience fail to see the differentiation or to doubt the validity of the rhetoric… each scared to be Tylenol with Cyanide in it in one store in Chicago. Republicans breathed a sigh of relief when those YouTube videos turned up yesterday, not because they wouldn’t feel personally responsible or because anyone was less dead or shot, but because it kept the brand safe.
So the lies pile on top of the lies and eventually the only way anyone can see it is as “Us vs Them.”
Would this guy have been any saner if he was a rabid Palin fan? Besides the ha-ha answer, the obvious answer is “no.” But that doesn’t leave her off the hook… or any of us.
Why do people hate the health care package that was passed? Because they have been told they should hate it. Because they have been told it will end up being unfair to them because they work hard and people who don’t will reap the benefits. They have been lied to. And now, more lies are piling up as the Republicans are pretending that they would like to replace the package with another one that satisfies everyone. This is who we have become. Lobbyists’ monkeys pretending to be freedom fighters. And yes, it happens on both sides.
Perhaps it is time for the oath of office to include, “First, Do No Harm.”