Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tucson Inevitable in an Atmosphere of Hate

I write this mostly for my own clarification so please excuse any ramblings as I try to unravel my own thoughts about the shooting in Tucson and its relationship to the violence that has crept into today's rhetoric.

First let me say that I do not see Sarah Palin as a direct cause of the shooter's actions. Yet, it was her name that immediately sprang to mind when I heard of the event. I think her responsibility for such actions is much broader and far reaching than this one young man.

A writing friend finds it ludicrous that I would think that there is any connection whatsoever between Palin and Tucson. But she seems to consider only one way that Palin and the shooter could be connected and that would be if he was a student of her politics or follower or was aware of her map that targeted the Congresswoman with a gun crosshairs symbol.

I know the connection is not that direct.

When I heard that a young man had walked up to Congresswoman Giffords, raised a gun and shot her from about a foot away from her head. Shot her in the head. I thought of Sarah Palin and that candidate Angle who suggested second amendment remedies for those who opposed her. Not that I thought the man had any affiliation to these women or was directly influenced by them. But the relationship was as clear to me as the smile on my child's face. Palin had placed the target on this woman. Palin had gone out of her way to use volatile rhetoric, words like kill, death, 'don't retreat, reload.' She encouraged that kind of discourse and coarseness in the public political debate. And others took that as a signal that they could do the same.

I don't understand how Palin or anyone can spout those kinds of hate based words and then turn around and say what a strong Christian she is. In my brain the two just don't go together. I was raised by a gentle but strong woman. She was pure steel when it came to the way one talked about another. You NEVER wished anyone dead. You never wished them ill. Even if you were mistreated, you turned the other cheek -- again and again. She taught us to pray for our enemies and not to pray that they would be caught in the crosshairs. So the form of Christianity I was taught seems so at odds with the entire persona of Sarah Palin.

Don't misunderstand me. I am not against anyone, including Palin, who live lives that include guns or who hunt, fish and live off the land. I do object to anyone who abuses the land, the animals, and kills for sport. I respect responsible lives. Responsible and appropriate regard for guns.

Guns were a part of our life. We just took for granted that there were rifles and shotguns in the closet. Unloaded of course. Taken apart so that no child could hurt him or herself. But guns were just there. I guess we understood that they were for necessities. Tools. We could hunt for meat if necessary and on a more unconscious level we thought of them as protection if we were ever attacked. Of course I grew up in the post WWII and Korea era. It was a reality for an enemy to overwhelm a person's home, community and cause them to defend themselves as best they could. We revered stories about the French Resistance. Guns were part of that story. The guns were not glorified. They were tools to defend freedom and provide for one's family.

The only gun I personally objected to was my brother's BB gun. He didn't have the respect, nor the understanding of how to properly use the gun. He stood under the big locust tree in our back yard and shot birds just to see if he could hit them. Thankfully he wasn't a very good shot. But I still see the robin that fell at my feet. And I must admit that my adoration for an older brother slipped a notch or two. But then again children don't understand death or the finality of it. And there was a part of me that itched to see if I could shoot straight. Hit the target. I think the day, with a little help from me and a friend, he accidently shot himself in the hand, we both learned that there is a side to guns and shooting that is quite painful and deserves more respect.

But when guns are used even in metaphor against a political opponent -- that makes no sense. It is pure abuse.

Politicians use words. Are adept with their use. They are tools and too often weapons. So when a politician chooses a gun metaphor or wishes his opponent dead or calls him or her an 'enemy.' What can anyone hearing that think but that they meant to convey a feeling and a thought that had only been used in war?

The words coming from our leaders, our media, the pundits, the cable opinion mongers, are as lethal as bullets. We no longer debate. We attack. It seems to be a take-no-prisoner mentality when it is not about killing your enemy, but about supporting your political party and their beliefs. It is not a life and death fight. Or am I missing something?

Do I think the young man who shot and killed so many members of a community was ill? Yes. Do I think he alone was responsible for his actions? Yes. Do I think that the vitriolic rhetoric set a tone in this nation that fostered, even nourished his behavior? Definitely. Yes!

Every leader has a responsibility. Everyone with a platform is charged with the responsibility to use it appropriately and responsibly. When did that get shoved to the side? When did it become whatever does the most damage is fine? I am so ashamed of the rhetoric in this country. So very ashamed that a Christian voices such nasty, hateful words and then sluffs them off with an even more despicable excuse, trying to say that there is a blood libel against her....

I am unable to listen to Rush Limbaugh or Mr. Beck. I cringe and find it painful to listen to them attack their fellow man. Do they not know that everyone is a child of God? We are not enemies; we are fellow citizens traveling the same roads.

It is troubling that we are so divided. Another friend, who is bound to me by our love of fabric art, said that perhaps I would see it differently when things were reversed. If she meant that when the people representing my beliefs began shouting death, they should die, target and wipe 'em out and other such violent epithets, that I would see the reason in them. But, you see my friend, anyone who believes as I believe would never consider that kind of attack. I believe that we all are equal. All are human. All deserve a good life, equal rights, safe lives, and secure homes. I don't think anyone should be hungry or in poverty. I don't believe anyone is better than another. And when it comes to wealth -- it is not for personal gain, but is actually a responsibility, a call to help those less fortunate. The same with power. It should be used to edify one's fellow man. So if one of the leaders who represent the party to which I belong begins spouting hate statements, I would reject him. He would not be sharing my beliefs and I could not condone such actions.

Again I wonder how a Christian can accept such violent hate-filled discourse.

So, maybe I have not unraveled anything with this blog. Maybe it is only more confusing. I know it saddens me to spend time thinking about the chasm that divides me from so many people who are my dearest friends and even relatives. But most of all it frightens me that I cannot understand how anyone can condone this violent advocating rhetoric.


Maggie Szafranski said...

Dawn, Your words express so much of what is in my heart, also. Thank you.

Cherie in Del Mar said...

Thank you for this post. These words express so eloquently what is so wrong in our society today, as well as what should be right! How I wish everyone in our country would read , and truly understand the meaning in your essay.

Cherie Brown

Carter said...

I sympathize, Dawn. You and I are both what has been called Communitarians. I'm all for markets, but not "free"--that is to say, rapacious--Wall St. gangs. And I, too, find it odd that people who call themselves Christians apparently haven't read the New Testament. Funny thing--the TV news has hardly mentioned recently the little matter of our imperialist wars in the Middle East.A little more faith, hope, and charity might be a good thing.