Yesterday was a bad day for Gabreille Giffords, her family and the families of those who lost loved ones – including the family who lost their nine year old daughter, Christina-Taylor Green, and the death of the Federal Judge who just happened to be in town. Yesterday was a bad day for the State of Arizona which has indeed become a ‘Mecca of Hate’ as the Sheriff of Pima county put it. Yesterday was a bad day for Tea Partiers who used vitriolic language in their campaign to ramp up voters and convince them that everyone with a ‘D’ after their name is evil.
Today is a bad day for Liberals. Today, while the dust settles, we are reminded that Sarah Palin’s map which included targets on certain Congressional districts (namely Giffords) is not new, nor limited solely to the Tea Party crowd. This is Sarah Palin’s targeting map:
And, from this past year by the Daily Kos
Today is a bad day for Americans. Friends, you know full well that I do not care for Sarah Palin in any shape or form (except for her soul), but if it was her targeting map that caused this, then we should also lay a more than equal share of the blame at the feet of my fellow Liberals.
But, it is not one map that caused this. As a matter of fact, I think that we may be rushing to conclusions in assuming that this was politically motivated. By that I mean, that Jared Loughner has a series of mental instability and incursions with the law. He expressed sentiments that I’ve found on both the Left and the Right, extreme portions of that and along with books such as the Communist Manifesto, he enjoyed Hitler’s book and a book by Ayn Rand. Further, there is some notion that he was somehow affiliated with the American Renaissance, a white nationalist group. If this was about politics, I would venture to guess that it was about his internal politics . If this tragedy was political, it was inspired by the nature of rhetoric which has been increasingly more violent for the past few years. It is not surprising that someone who failed to properly interpret reality could also tragically fail to interpret rhetoric.
We have seen during the past two years people rally on the grounds of the Temple of our Democracy armed with threats plastered on poster boards.
Further, there is the rhetoric by such as Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle (the former Senate candidate from Nevada, the northern neighbor to Arizona). Palin’s favorite saying was ‘Don’t retreat, reload’ while Angle regularly advocated for second amendment remedies. Joyce Kaufmann, a would-be Senator’s chief of staff, speaking at Tea Party Rally said , “If ballots don’t work, bullets will.” The Democrats had a candidate shooting the Cap and Trade bill as a campaign commerical. How are the mentally unbalanced supposed to interpret this as an esoteric call to metaphorical arms through the ballot box when even the sane cannot? Add to that the daily notion that ‘We need to take our country back’ as well as the virtual RSS feed from the Right about Socialism, Nazism, Fanaticism, and the like which seemingly is all the White House is now focused on implementing across the country…
Liberals have their own targeting maps, but for the life of me, I cannot remember Democratic candidates urging the things that I’ve seen from some on the Right. We are not innocent in this matter, we Liberals I mean. But we Christians are more to blame for the increase in violent rhetoric across this country. I’ve posted on this before. Christians are legitimatizing hatred by allowing it, even passively. We are actively moving away from the true role of the Church – we are no longer the salt of this earth, but now, more than ever, serve as the kindling of the fires of violence. Our pastor this morning gallantly called for every Christian to stand against this sort of violent rhetoric. The Scriptures commends to us the mission to absorb violence in this world. Politically Liberal and Politically Conservative Christians must be Christians first. We must not allow the spirit of paranoia and fear to overtake us, nor any of the others spirits which would seek to divide the Body of Christ so that our mission is hindered. There is a toxicity in our speech, the speech of our society, and where is the Church? Many times, it is those who claim membership in our family, who is doing such things.
We have been conditioned to see those who have different opinions than us as the other side and any thing from the other side is almost necessarily wrong. For instance, my brother Rodney. Yesterday, during the Twitter Feeding Frenzy, I retweeted the fact that Sarah Palin had pulled down the above given image after the shooting. Immediately, he pounced on me as being partisan. Not so true, really. There are facts and there are opinions. I think that we have forgotten the difference (that the same goes for theology and science should go without saying). I understand Rodney’s nature is to be contrary to most things – and indeed, that is human nature. That is my nature and your nature. But it is this nature which is getting in the way of progress, from both sides. I am a Liberal and yet as my brother Rodney will note, I betray some of my conservative tendencies at times. Yet, when I post facts, they are automatically ‘known’ to be Liberal and thus Rodney reacts, sometimes overly so, to counter that just as when I see his tweets I discount them because they are Tea Party. We are not threatening each other in any way, and we have learned that sometimes, it is better to crack a joke and leave it alone. But, do we actually listen to each other? Most likely not – because to listen to the other side is to somehow take away from our side, or so we think.
I found it interesting that as soon as the attack happened, both sides pointed to the recent rhetoric (yes, even some on the Right pointed to it and said ‘enough’) and blamed it for the rampage. What happens if we learn that the man was simply insane and not influenced either directly or passively by it? The issue for me then is that both sides realize that this rhetoric has produced a bubble in our society which is ready to pop and they, we, thought this was it. While many are pointing the finger only to Sarah Palin others are defending her. It is not just her. It is us. She wouldn’t be here if we were not her audience. The Daily Kos wouldn’t run targeting lists if we called them on it just like we do Sarah Palin. We must be informed and in being informed, we must educate. We must not let the uninformed educate because they educate our fear and ignorance. Of course, the informed are likely to use fear and ignorance as well. We must hold those whom we alleviate as leaders to account in the way they lead us. If we are to continue to treat the Milgram Experiment as the perfect political system, then we must learn to expect that the rhetoric of violence will be the fuel which burns down our Republic. Many of us, on both sides, now realize that the pulpit which we have given to the loudest and most ignorant among us must now be guarded as a weapon in and of itself. It is either a weapon to incite violence or to incite good government. The Government of this Republic must be established upon an educated electorate, and we have treated our own education as we did high school p.e., as unneeded. Thus, we have become obese with our own opinions, fattened with pride, and anorexic on facts. If we now realize that we have a problem with rhetoric in this country which is leading, or can lead, to violence, then we as Americans, as voters, must demand that it stops.
I believe that we are better than this in this country. I do believe that we are a city set on a hill which has taken the best of the world has shined light into the darkness of political enslavement. We have not done so according to our birthright, not all the time, but we can and we should. As a Christian, I believe that we are being called, today, to serve as the example of a people who lead by discourse, by justice, by compassion so that God may be glorified through us. We are not called to demonize or to issue vitriolic speeches. We are called to be Christ, moved by Sophia/Logos, to this fallen world.
Finally, Senator Robert F. Kennedy once wrote,
When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies – to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.