I know that most of you don't tune in here for political stuff, so I'm going to indulge myself with one follow-up post on political violence and then I'll be back to medical stuff, I promise.
I can see from the comments from my last post that there is an unsurprising backlash from the right side of the spectrum regarding the linkage between the violent rhetoric of the right's politics and the assassination attempt on Rep Giffords. To a degree, that is understandable. This link implicitly inculpates all conservatives/Tea Partiers, and that isn't quite fair. What shocked me is the degree of tribalism in the debate -- the responses I got from self-identified or presumptive conservatives were all defensive to the point of being in extreme denial. Universally, the comments were along the lines of:
- Liberals do it too
- The shooter was a liberal
On the second point, which I think we can agree is less relevant, whether the shooter is liberal or conservative is probably a meaningless question to ask. It's pretty clear that he's nuts, and not in possession of any coherent political philosophy. The same probably applies to a number of the politically violent acts in the litany of recent political violence. They are all, almost by definition, nuts. Some are clearly political conservatives (like the Pittsburgh shooter worried Obama would take his guns), some are hard to define, like the guy who crashed into the IRS building, and some are probably nonpolitical nuts (the Hunstville shooter came up a few times, and that seemed quite bereft of political overtones). However, my response to this is that IT DOESN'T MATTER what a given nutcase thinks he is accomplishing when he or she take up arms. What matters is, "What were the factors that drove them to take up arms?" He may not have known how Rep Gifford voted on Cap and Trade, but he probably had seen ads like this, run by Giffords' opponent:
Did these cause the shooter to pick up his gun and go the the supermarket? Of course not. Were they part of the environment that led him to think that shooting people was an option? Possibly. Is this a useful and valuable contribution to the political discourse?
Which brings us to the "Liberals do it too" point. It's incredibly frustrating to debate this, because the truth is that lots of liberals have behaved poorly and done nasty things, and when you get people posting in the comments half a dozen links to some rightwing blog it makes it appear that there might be an equivalence after all. But there isn't. Trust me, I can use the google machine as well as any of you, and I followed all the links you posted, and there is still no equivalence. Sure, some democrats or liberal protests may have at times done or said things that are not defensible and I am not going to try to defend them. What is clear is that the conservative rejoinder of "You did it first!" is weak tea at best, and more honestly a product of self-delusion on the right. The "liberals" cited as being "violent" included luminaries such as Madonna, Alec Baldwin, Louis Farrakhan, Montel Williams, an anonymous Kos blogger and Alan Grayson. They range from the irrelevant to the "Who?" to the "Oh God, he's no liberal" end of the spectrum. Whereas the conservatives who fetishize guns and threaten insurrection are hugely popular LEADERS of the movement such as:
Glenn Beck, standing against violence, with a gun.
George Packer put it more eloquently than I could:
In fact, there is no balance—none whatsoever. Only one side has made the rhetoric of armed revolt against an oppressive tyranny the guiding spirit of its grassroots movement and its midterm campaign. Only one side routinely invokes the Second Amendment as a form of swagger and intimidation, not-so-coyly conflating rights with threats. Only one side’s activists bring guns to democratic political gatherings. Only one side has a popular national TV host who uses his platform to indoctrinate viewers in the conviction that the President is an alien, totalitarian menace to the country. Only one side fills the AM waves with rage and incendiary falsehoods. Only one side has an iconic leader, with a devoted grassroots following, who can’t stop using violent imagery and dividing her countrymen into us and them, real and fake. Any sentient American knows which side that is; to argue otherwise is disingenuous.
It's the LEADERS of the conservative movement who use the threat/promise of violence to stoke their base and bring the voters to the polls. It was Wayne LaPierre of the NRA who said at CPAC "Our Founding Fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules," and Rep West, R-FL who said that "If ballots don't work, bullets will." It is 28% of Republicans who believe that "violent action against the government is justified," more than twice the rate of Dems or independents agreeing with that proposition.
This is a UNILATERAL phenomenon. If I say that I hope Dick Cheney suffers terribly before he goes to hell, well, that's a nasty and mean thing for me to say. It is completely unlike someone RUNNING FOR OFFICE as a Republican, saying publicly that "Our nation was founded on violence. The option is on the table. I don't think that we should ever remove anything from the table." (TX; Broden)
What I am advocating that the people saying these things knock it the fuck off. You're not helping. This map has enough "bullseyes" on it; we don't want any more.