Monday, January 10, 2011

The Arizona tragedy: the good and the bad responses

There was a lot of good in the responses I have seen to Saturday's Arizona massacre.  Obviously, there was Daniel Hernandez, the intern who rushed to the side of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords; I have read that his actions saved her life, and they were obviously heroic.  Also praiseworthy is the group that is organizing to form a blockade against the haters from Westboro Baptist Church (a church whose actions disgust me and many other is any form of hate showing the love of Christ?), who are planning to protest at the funeral of 9-year-old Christina Green.  The moment of silence held today by people from both political parties was a good gesture, as have been all the prayers for the victims and the families.

Unfortunately, the good that can come out of the worst of events is overshadowed so much by the pettiness, sniping, and politicizing to a level I don't remember seeing in recent memory.  Almost immediately there were people pointing fingers at the usual suspects, the foremost of whom, of course, was Sarah Palin.  See, her PAC (political action group, for the uninitiated) targeted 20 House districts which voted for McCain-Palin but were held by Democrats.  (The original Facebook post is here, and the comments are going nuts.)  The symbol over each of these districts appears to be cross hairs.  One of those districts belongs to Rep. Giffords.  And so, obviously, by some leap of logic that escapes me, Sarah Palin was responsible for the shootings in Tucson. 

Jim Treacher at the Daily Caller has correlated several people all jumping to the same Palin-is-responsible conclusion here.  As Mr. Treacher says, "it was only a matter of minutes before blame for the incident could be assigned."  And assigned it was, all to the same people.  (And a lot of other people seem to be looking for a roadmap to that same conclusion, including several people who have found this entry on my blog while searching for some variant of "palin incendiary comments".)

But is that really the way to handle this tragedy?  First of all, there is no evidence that the assailant, Jared Lee Loughner, paid much attention to Sarah Palin at all.  Second, thanks to the rush to judgment by the people mentioned in Mr. Treacher's article, there was a counter-push of conservatives and Tea Partiers which can be summarized as "Oh, yeah?  Well, you hate worse!"  And they have a point.  Michelle Malkin compiled what appears to be a master list of liberal hatred toward conservatives, starting with a lot of hatred toward Sarah Palin and George W. Bush and moving toward topic-specific hatred.  (Because of such hatred, this link is NSFW.)

Oh, and third, Neal Boortz reports that Gov. Palin's office is saying the symbols weren't even cross hairs anyway; they were surveyor's marks.  And so Mr. Boortz links to a PDF from the U.S. Geological Survey which uses a very familiar symbol for a "principal point".  (Of course, then Mr. Boortz shows maps from the Democrats showing targets.  Not something that looks like cross hairs--actual targets.  But then, maybe they were just organizing against Walmart.)  There's more on the whole targeting of blame toward Sarah Palin and other like-minded people from Mr. Boortz here.

And fourth?  Sarah Palin weighed in on this herself, in an e-mail to Glenn Beck, as reported by The Right Scoop.  As read by Mr. Beck, Sarah Palin wrote the following:

I hate violence. I hate war. Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and violence. Thanks for all you do to send the message of truth and love and God as the answer. -Sarah

Yeah, she's a real purveyor of hatred, isn't she?

So how do I respond to all the sniping right now?  Do I spend several more paragraphs focusing on a Democrat who called for the Republican candidate for the governorship of Florida to be shot?  Do I wax poetic at the absurdity of those who started a petition (signed by 3910 people at this writing) for Sarah Palin to be indicted for the Tucson massacre?  Do I point out, as multiple people linked already have done, that no less than Barack Obama said, "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun"?

Is this discussion even worth it anymore?  Or does the discussion of political ideas need to be changed one person at a time, starting with me?  Starting with you?

The change to political discussion, at least for me, has to come as part of a greater transformation.  I today read this post from Scot McKnight, in which he reminded me that "[t]he problem is that human beings are cracked," and in which he said:
But the problem, Mr and Mrs Pundit, is not the Right or the Left. The problem is You and Me. Let’s quit the blame and look inside.

And so my response to the Tucson massacre, as well as to another issue about which I intend to write ASAP (because my most faithful reader asked why I haven't blogged lately), is to remind myself that there are things that I need to change.  I don't think I've demonized political opposites before, but I will redouble efforts not to do so. (No, I'm not swearing off snark.  There's always a place for well-used snark.  But snark must take a back seat to civility when the two don't jibe.) 

So, who wants to join me on this journey?  You, gentle reader, must decide if you want to continue to spew hatred at Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, or whoever.  But for me, it's time for this road to end.