Interpreting the Tucson Shooting: It’s Time Both Parties Denounce Hyperbolic, Aggressive Rhetoric01.08.11
After the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the parking lot of a Tucson Safeway, many have immediately pointed to the harsh rhetoric coming from the conservative party as incentive for the heinous act, reportedly perpetrated by an 18-year-old kid.
While there has not been a single report as to the reasoning behind his murderous actions (a 9-year-old has been reported to have been killed, along with others), it’s not exactly a leap to jump to that conclusion. Regardless, until the facts are out, it’s all speculation.
Does that mean that we can’t discuss that aggressive, hyperbolic rhetoric is a plague on our society? Absolutely not.
I don’t know at what point we can blame someone for what they say when their suggestions or insinuations cause someone else to commit a crime. One might say that we shouldn’t blame violent media for violence in real life. But there’s a considerable difference between someone who watches a slasher flick and then goes on a killing spree versus elected public officials calling for revolution, calling for their constituents to be “armed and dangerous.” There is a responsibility once someone holds public office that separates what they do in the media from that of fictional entertainment.
Then again, that assumes that politics and fictional entertainment are different entities. Given that America’s interest in current events lies more on commentary and variously defined “facts,” the line is blurred now more than ever.
Also, for those who have been instantly pointing their fingers at Sarah Palin for her “Hit List” and Michelle Bachmann for encouraging people to “fight back” against Democrats, it’s not about the media. It’s about our political climate. We live in an era where lies and hyperbole rule the day in order to rally the bases out to the polls to ensure more political power. Seriously, it’s not exactly subtle to say “help us prescribe the solution” and then have a map with a bunch of targets aligned with Democratic Representatives; it’s more like a military response than a legislative one.
There are plenty of disturbed people in the world. And they’re not all religious fundamentalists or terrorists from other countries. Homegrown Americans can be unbalanced and living outside of reality, too. The issue is not that there is violence in the media or that insane people commit atrocious acts of violence — that’s always an unfortunate issue of the human condition. Instead, it’s the fact that we have government officials calling for violence in response to civilized, democratic legislation. How is that at all a reasonable response from anyone, much less someone holding public office – whose very job it is to solve problems through discourse and lawmaking, not revolution and violence? And whether or not it was an influence on this shooting, that negative, detrimental effect on society cannot be ignored any longer.
It’s time cooler heads prevail so we can all find common ground on a tonal shift away from violence in political rhetoric no matter how vehemently we disagree with each other’s philosophies. What’s the endgame for these types of calls to violence other than actual, physical retaliation? If it’s just supposed to be all talk, then why not spout out positive, legal ways to make changes to our society rather than breed this atmosphere of fear and anger?
The onus is on us. We can’t make other people conform to these concepts of civility. The best we can do is be sure that we act the way we want others to act — ideally, the more people who follow along will render those inflammatory soundbites from exposure-hungry, vapid politicians pointless. We need to resist the urge to add more safety measures into our already encroaching police state-esque list of laws that sacrifice personal freedoms for the sake of national security.
We’re all Americans. We shouldn’t be treating members of the other party like the enemy. We already have enough of them in the world; we don’t need to be fighting with each other, too. And perhaps once we can achieve that, we can actually fix the significant problems we have here at home.
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