HARDY HABERMAN | Flagging Left
I am guilty — guilty of seeing a connection between the rabble-rousing rhetoric of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and others as a catalyst for the actions of a twisted Arizona man.
Guilty of sensing the tragic and outrageous events in Tucson as some kind of clarion call.
Guilty of hoping the tone of political discussion in this country might in some way be softened by the senseless murders and injuries caused by a man with a gun.
Guilty of thinking to myself these words, “See, now look at what you have done!”
Yet my confession does nothing to ease the pain and suffering of those in Arizona. The families of the murdered political aide, the innocent girl, the elderly couples will still grieve, and the husbands, wives and lovers of the injured will still worry and spend sleepless nights at hospital bedsides.
Like so many others, I long to make sense of the events in Arizona by casting about for someone to blame and until the man who committed the murders confesses, I will have no proof. The reason is locked in his mind, and all the pundits and psychologists and TV talking heads cannot know the real answer.
I am guilty of trying to figure that out as well.
It’s natural to look for reasons for unreasonable acts. It is what makes us human, our desire to somehow connect the dots and make sense of what happens around us and to us.
Unfortunately, doing that can lead to wrong conclusions. Less fortunate still is the desire to use inexplicable events as an excuse to further our personal agenda.
I could easily point to Sarah Palin’s website with the now infamous “bull’s-eye map” and ask, “How is that not a direct call to action for every mentally unstable person with a firearm?”
I could point to the Tea Party and their signs reading “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy,” and ask, “How is that kind of jingoism not a call to violence?”
I could point to the YouTube videos of the accused shooter who ranted about “There’s no flag in the constitution. Therefore, the flag in the film is unknown. Burn every new and old flag that you see.”
I could point to those videos and ask how could he not be a deranged anti-government mad man?
I could point to the pundits and commentators and politicians who have jumped to conclusions they fear are the truth.
More telling about this whole event is the number and direction of the finger-pointing — not just by me, but by people on both the right and the left.
Most of those fingers point to the vehemence of the rhetoric and what passes for political discourse. When the Pima County Sheriff spoke of Tucson being Tombstone, the metaphor was not lost on many.
The fact that Sarah Palin’s staff removed the “bull’s-eye map” only minutes after the shootings, the fact that politicians told their staffs to be more vigilant and aware of possible threats, the fact that commentators on both sides jumped to the conclusions about the “tone of the discussion” may hold an answer.
Whatever the reason Jared Lee Loughner may have had for opening fire at point-blank range on Congresswoman Giffords, the act gave substance to what so many have feared.
All the talk and ranting and chanting could erupt into violence, that is the biggest fear, even of those using the harsh language.
It makes for great visuals to whip a crowd into a frenzy, but beyond the visuals, it creates a force that can take on a life of its own — the “mob.”
And though it might not operate en-masse, mob mentality can still push individuals to violent acts.
That’s why everyone from John McCain to President Obama are urging calm. That’s why it’s time to do a bit of soul searching. That’s why it’s time to retract those pointing fingers and start examining our own actions.
Sadly, not everyone will heed the call. Already, irresponsible voices are screaming on radio and TV, looking to exploit the still-fluid situation and the fog of facts.
Already, the sad cult led by Fred Phelps is heading to Tucson to wave inflammatory signs lauding God’s vengeance for the murders and blaming America’s acceptance of homosexuals for the crimes.
And once again I find myself guilty of trying to find someone or something to be the target of my anger and grief.
I only hope that my sincere belief in the power of peace will be greater than my baser instincts. My desire to hope is stronger than my surrender to despair. My passing reaction to hate will not succumb to my instinct to love.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.