Morality, Politics, and Sarah Palin’s Crosshairs
Last year Sarah Palin put Representative Giffords in gun-sight crosshairs. Saturday Representative Giffords was shot.
The shooter may or may not have seen Palin’s graphic. The shooter may or may not have been associated with a right wing group. There is no evidence that Sarah Palin actively intended her graphic to inspire an assassination. Is she directly responsible? Is she morally culpable for the shooting? Difficult to claim or deny with any clarity.
Is this an appropriate moment to discuss potential effects of heated, angry rhetoric of politicians and right wing media, including Palin’s target sights on Democratic Congressional representatives?
Is it appropriate to discuss all heated rhetoric? Yes. Yes, please. Yes, aren’t we all dying for less anger and rage? Yes. But let’s be clear who is angriest right now, and whose calls are the most violent. Who is calling for Second Amendment remedies? Which side’s angry rhetoric, say, against abortion, leads to assassination and bombs? Are there crazy lefties? GOD, YES. Batshit crazies. Are some of them violent? Yes, of course.
But not quite like the right. The left doesn’t quite have the "and bring your rifle to the meeting" mentality that the right seems to have been adopting in the last five years. Is that scary? YES. YES IT IS. An angry person with a gun can kill people. An angry lefty with granola and a yurt isn’t quite as upsetting. Was Bush the target of angry lefties with guns? Very likely. Were there leftist marches en masse that featured guns? No. No, no, no. If there were some, that in no way makes them MOST. Absolutely in no way did the heated anger of leftists during Bush’s Presidency mirror what is going on now. Besides, the right was angry while they had all the power. Most leftists I know right now are just disgusted and frustrated, frequently with each other.
Is the Tea Party nothing but crazies? No. Are they morally responsible for Gifford’s attempted assasination? Oh, that’s sticky and hard to say. Is their angry rhetoric a relevant discussion at the moment in the context of Gifford’s attempted assassination? Yes.
Is bringing up past lefty craziness appropriate? Sure. I’ll give you that there are crazies on all sides. I’ll give you that Democrats have also used some of the tactics being complained about by the left. How much of that is relevant right now? Not much. How much does the existence of crazy all around excuse the fact that there is a lot of angry right wing sentiment right now and a left (God, but just barely) leaning figure was targeted? It doesn’t. Is it appropriate? Arguable.
Is it politically fair game? Hell yes.
We can all universally agree that there’s too much anger. And I’m part of it. Am I angry that if I try to use reason in a discussion a right-wing person usually brings up shit that has no relevance or cites the Bible or starts calling me elitist or whatever else? Yes, I’m angry about that! Am I angry when Sarah Palin uses crosshairs and one of her targets gets shot? YES. YES, I’M ANGRY. Do I have any intent to shoot a right wing person? No. Do I intend to subtly or overtly hint that others should? No. Do I think all the righties should be carted off? No. I’m related to some. And anyway, I don’t like that kind of talk. Though I’m not in politics, so even if I did it wouldn’t matter personally. Would I be part of the general bad mood? Yes.
Does it matter more when political leaders and media figures use their offices and megaphones to promote hate and anger and use violent metaphors? YES. YES IT DOES.
I don’t like Sarah Palin. I don’t like her politics. I don’t like her hypocrisy. I don’t like her bullshit feminism. I really hate how insipid and uneducated she is. What I will grant her is that she is brutally cunning and driven. I’ll grant that she’s a clever manipulator and that she knows her audience. She’s uneducated, but she’s not stupid. She learns from her colossal blunders. She plays some demon poker. She likes winning, and she likes power, and yes, she’s a force no matter what people say.
She also just got dealt a big slap because she is now, no matter how FOX News and other machines spin it, linked to Giffords, even if she honestly never intended any death at all, even if she posted that graphic in good faith. Because the same game of manipulation and coercion and poker she used to post that graphic applies now. NOW. Not in 2001 or 1995 or 1974. NOW. Right NOW. When she is probably gearing up to run for President. When passions are high on all sides.
When mentally unstable and angry people shoot Congresswomen who were on her hit list. When any thinking person who isn’t drinking either side’s kool-aid can see that there is a plausible link between someone mentally unwell feeling bolstered by hate rhetoric and violent metaphors.
Politics is not about nice. Politics is not about fair. Politics isn’t even about reason. Politics is, disgustingly, little more than art and artifice. Skill in politics is not about moral good. I think above all this is why Obama struggles so badly. I think he’s too damn nice. I think he means too well. If he were more of an ass, I think it’d be a different story. If he were half of what the right has put on him, he would be a force beyond anything.
Palin is indeed a force. Palin is a politician. Palin plays people. Palin is scary because she isn’t easy to write off. But Palin just got caught in politics.
The right will defend her. The Tea Party will, ah, once again, claim it is a victim. FOX news will bemoan how unfair it all is and come up with excuses and distractions. Every ill Democrats that ever have done will be trotted out by anyone on the right. Arguments will be contorted.
Palin put Giffords in crosshairs. Giffords got shot.
This is a politically sticky moment for Palin. Is it nice to link her and use it to help take her down? Is it logical or rational? No. Is it good morally to do so? Cases could be made in each direction. Certainly it’s not very nice.
Is it politically fair game? Oh, hell yes. And anyone on the right who says they wouldn’t do the same thing if the tables had been turned is a big fat liar.
And any Democrat who lets the argument turn into "this isn’t logical or nice or fair or moral" needs to find their inner Bill Clinton and
drive in the knife.
ETA: Someone pointed out to me that "driving in the knife" is also a violent image, and maybe I wanted to change that. So I am–but I’m not deleting it, because this has become, actually a far better discussion for it.
This is the problem. When it’s OUR imagery, we don’t see it. When it’s our anger and our metaphor, we know what we mean. Was it right for someone to point (ha, ha) that out to me? God yes. Did I mean that? No! Do I want someone to knife Palin? NO!
Do I want to retract it? YES. YES I DO.
That’s the difference. In the revelation of potential violent imagery, I want to take it down, especially when I actually contract myself. I screwed up there and undercut my own argument. Did you notice? If you did, you get points. And you should have spoken up. If you didn’t, go ahead and pause to reflect with me. Because we all should.
It’s worth pointing out the person who pointed it out to me agrees with the rest of the piece, I think. Is it hard to retract something? Yep. Is it harder when you’re in the public eye? Yep. Is it harder when you have real, not just armchair political points at stake? Yes. Yes, yes.
Is it worth doing? Yes.