Counting the Cost of Violent Political Discourse
I am watching the news in horror today, as a gunman opened fire on politician Gabrielle Giffords at a public event she was holding, shot her point-blank in the head, and shot 17 other people. At the time I’m writing this, Giffords is in critical condition and six people have been killed. It’s times like this that require introspection as to what is going on in our country. The gunman is allegedly a 22-year-old man named Jared Loughner. People have been speculating all day on his motives and political ties and clearly, at this point, no one knows. Nonetheless, many references have been made to some of the violent rhetoric that has been used from certain political figures and whether or not there is some culpability in their use of language. Until we know this man’s motives, it’s hard to place blame in this specific incident.
Excerpts from Jared’s myspace page and YouTube videos are full of references to conspiracies. In my opinion and experience, given his age and his ramblings I would not be surprised if this young man was having a schizophrenic break. From his YouTube video:
Firstly, the current government officials are in power for their currency, but I’m informing you for your new currency! Of you’re treasurer of a new money system, then you’re responsible for the distributing of a new currency. We now know — the treasurer for a new money system. is the distributor of the new currency. As a result, the people approve a new money system which is promising new information that’s accurate, and we truly believe in a new currency. Above all, you have your new currency, listener?
Secondly, my hope s for you to be literate! If you’re literate in English grammar, then you comprehend English grammar. The majority of people, who reside on District 8, are illiterate — hilarious. I don’t control your English grammar structure, but you control your English grammar structure. Thirdly, I know who’s listening; Government Officials, and the People. Nearly all the people, who don’t know this accurate information of a new currency, aren’t aware of mind control and brainwashing methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn’t have happen. In conclusion, my ambition — is for informing literate dreamers about a new currency, in a few days, you know I’m conscience dreaming! Thanks you!
He goes on to say on his myspace page:
In conclusion, reading the second United States Constitution, I can’t trust the government because of the ratifications: The government is implying mind control and brainwash 0n the people by controlling grammar. No! I won’t pay debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver! No! I won’t trust in God! What’s government if words don’t have meaning?
These definitely sound like the words of a paranoid schizophrenic to me. I think think it will emerge that this man is mentally ill. There is no information thus far that indicates that he was working off the prompts of some of the violence rhetoric of Palin, et al. However . . . Anytime there has been a tragedy, it makes sense to take a step back and look at how to prevent further tragedies. Even if Jared Loughner had no political ties, I think it still behooves us as a nation to reflect on what it means that political figures and pundits are so liberal with violent rhetoric. I’ve said it before . . . many times. I get that Beck and Palin and the like are not actually calling people to arms. But I also get that there are crazy people in this world who are not so discerning. Some examples that I find particularly concerning:
"I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back." and "...having a revolution every now and then is a good thing" - Michele Bachmann
"I hope that's not where we're going, but you know if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out. –Sharron Angle
"Don't retreat. Instead - reload" -Sarah Palin
"To the day I die, I am going to be a progressive hunter." -Glenn Beck
And getting the most press today is this disturbing map that Sarah Palin posted on her facebook page, with rifle targets pointed at the locations of individual politicians.
I understand hyperbole – I used it quite often myself. But I think that sarcasm and metaphor still require responsibility. In the case of politicians or pundits who help shape the political views of millions, even more responsibility should be exercised. The possibility of crazy people taking things literally should always be taken into account. Do we know if today’s shooter was inspired by this? No, we don’t. But we shouldn’t have to wonder.
This is not a political post – this is an anti-violence post. If there is similar gun or war rhetoric coming from the liberal side that I am missing, point it out and I will denounce it as well. I think the reminder today, whether there is a connection or not, is that we as a nation should not tolerate metaphorical calls to violence from our political leaders, in any form.