Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Debatable"

Over at Lenin's Tomb:
Gary Younge nails it:
Fights outside town hall meetings, guns outside rallies, Facebook pages calling for assassinations, discussions about the most propitious moment for armed insurrection. In late October I asked a man in the quaint town of Salida, Colorado, if President Barack Obama had done anything worthwhile. "Well he's increased the guns and ammunitions industry exponentially," he said. "My friends are stockpiling."
To dismiss these as the voices and actions of the marginal was to miss the point and misunderstand the trend. America is more polarised under Obama than it has been in four decades: the week he was elected gun sales leapt 50% year on year.
Where the right is concerned the marginal and the mainstream have rapidly become blurred. Neither the Tea Party nor Obama created these divisions. But over the past two years they have intensified to an alarming degree. Polls last year revealed that a majority of Republicans believe Obama is a Muslim and a socialist who "wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a one-world government" while two-thirds of Republicans either believe or are not sure that the president is "a racist who hates white people", and more than half believe or are not sure that "he was not born in the US" and that he "wants the terrorists to win".
In this alternative reality armed response becomes, if not logical, then at least debatable.
Republican reactionaries and their business and media allies have spent years winding people up, filling the public with hysterical, poisonous shit about black communist welfare queen drug mules taking over the country. The corporate-funded Tea Party crowd are largely white, more than averagely well-off yanks who believe - have been fervently told - that the country belongs to them and them alone. Hence, take it back. Hence, the batshit 'birther' insanity, and Palin's 'real America', and the vigorous promotion of John Birch Society bile in the shape of Glenn Beck. They're trying to make a large section of the public as irrational as possible, fill their heads with racial conspiracies, turn every last white man and woman who still has a house and two cars into a potential minuteman, ku klux or vigilante.
The author goes on to tie the increasingly violent rhetoric and behaviors with the increases in organizational and structural violence that as I've noted before so pervade American life. A civilization that increasingly embraces as its core assumption the notion that life is cheap and we're all expendable (albeit some more expendable than others) is not likely one that will embrace what would be considered rational: cooperation, nonviolent conflict resolution, respectful disagreements, rational debates, etc. Instead, outright elimination of enemies (i.e., anyone who just happens to be "different") becomes increasingly acceptable not only hypothetically but in practice. One might say that what we're witnessing as the devolution of our social and political discourse is essentially the birds coming home to roost. The huge question, and one that I have no clear answer to, is what can be done if anything. Or are we already past the point of no return?

Arizona's wingnuts continue to act like animals

A mass murder occurs, and Glock sales go up, and MinuteKlan activist Laine Lawless wishes another AZ Congress member dead. So much for dialing down the rhetoric.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Today's must-read blog

Check Glenn Littrell's post, Thought Of The Week: The Role Of Fearful Rhetoric.

One thing I want you to consider while looking at and pondering the words and actions of the right in its various manifestations: the overarching theme is violence. Sometimes it is manifest in threats of interpersonal violence (e.g., Senatorial candidate Sharron Angle's talk of "second amendment remedies" to deal with political enemies, targets aimed at political candidates by Palin's PAC) or actual interpersonal violence itself (e.g., Dr. Tiller's assassination late last decade). These threats and actions are one means to an end: maintain and expand the already gross organizational and structural violence that exist as a reality for many of us.

Let me rehash a quick definition of the terms organizational and structural violence:

We define organizational violence as physical harm (including death) resulting from decisions made by those acting in an official capacity. The decision to go to war in Iraq, with the ensuing casualties is but one example. Bureaucratic decisions made by government and corporate officials to ignore legitimate worker safety concerns also shall be considered organizational violence. Structural violence refers to physical harm (including death) suffered by a particular group of people who do not have access to the same services and benefits as the rest of society. Deaths caused by lack of access to health insurance and health care would be viewed as structural violence - the same would be said about deaths caused to black Americans who are systematically denied access to necessary health care.

It is worth noting that the "liberty" that many on the right harbor fantasies of violent revolution over is one that would be its antithesis for the vast majority of us, including restrictions on reproductive rights (reintroducing both organizational and structural violence against American women), the imposition of a narrow form of Christianity upon the populace (with the ensuing discrimination against anyone not belonging to the "right" church), and an interpretation of the Constitution that would leave vast swaths of the population disenfranchised. 

As I see it, whether we're dealing with the wingnuts who hide up in isolated compounds or their slightly more mainstream (I use that term loosely, only to the extent that they get tons of air time and print space) Tea Partiers, we're not dealing with people who respect a democratic society. These are enemies of freedom in any meaningful sense of the term, and it is up to those of us who still have a voice and the fortitude to shine a light on them.

Monday, January 10, 2011

More to think about

Whatever the ultimate motives of Loughner for this weekend's shooting spree in Arizona, there is little doubt that the venom that was (and still is) being spewed regularly by media and political figures representing the GOP and "Tea Party" provided plenty of background noise, a Zeitgeist, inviting an escalation in politically-motivated violence. The hysterical freakout over the passage of a very tepid health care reform bill has already been well-documented elsewhere, as were the incidents of right-wingers bringing firearms to Congressional town hall meetings the year before, and the eliminationist rhetoric on the airwaves, Internet, and Tea Party rallies.

At this point, it's critical to call bullshit on those who essentially fueled the fire for their own political and financial gain, who now find it convenient to play victim as their own actions come under belated public scrutiny. Sarah Palin is a great case study, since her reaction to the wave of vandalism of Congressional district offices was not to decry those pathetic acts of terrorism (which even folks like Boehner did to some extent), but to put up a crosshairs graphic targeting some of these same representatives (such as Giffords), and to tweet statements such as "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD" suggests a level of irresponsible opportunism that is nothing short of stunning. Her reaction and that of her staff and defenders in the aftermath of the near assassination of Giffords (and the murders of six who were in the wrong place at the wrong time) has been to play victim - hardly a promising sign. To me it is dishonorable to refuse to own up to one's mistakes, and I will offer that stoking violent rage with rhetoric more befitting a militia compound in the Idaho wilderness is a mistake of gargantuan proportions. I also largely agree that much of the defensiveness we see now from our right-wing extremists does seem like a tacit acknowledgment of guilt.

Anyone who has read me long enough will know that I don't advocate restricting the right to free speech. I will most certainly be against any legislation that would affect our ability to communicate our ideas, our beliefs, our values (whether we agree or not). What I will say, like any good Existentialist, is that with freedom comes responsibility. Palin and others who have used their national and international forums to pander to the revolutionary inclinations of right-wing extremists may not be legally accountable for the actions of those who choose to act on their words and imagery, but they are responsible for contributing to an environment in which such violence becomes more likely. Their choice now is to either accept that responsibility, acknowledge their previous actions, and seek out less inflammatory means to make their point, or to - as Palin and her fans seem eager to do - shirk that responsibility. Needless to say, I'll have no respect for the latter course of action.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Well said

From Mirabile Dictu (who really should write more often!):
I’m not a romantic or an idealist, Christina. It’s become very difficult to say the words “all you need is love” and be taken seriously. Perhaps because we have never really understood what we meant when we said those words. Maybe we thought those words just meant “don’t worry, be happy”. Though even that is hardly a bad thing.

We seem to have forgotten that wise women and men (and children) have pondered the meaning of those words for centuries and only understood them fleetingly and through a dark glass. We don’t think those words are “useful” in “real” life which is harsh and hard and technical and practical and scientific and rational and emotionless. Many people sneer at those words, Christina, and think they are nice enough in a song but of no useful significance. Others think they can use them in their churches and synagogues and mosques and decide what they mean in those limited places and forget what it means to bring them out into the world – the real world that often doesn’t look as though it was made for love but was.

[snip]

I want this bad death that has been inflicted upon you by all of us to lead to something better, if not something good. Like a world where kids can admire and respect and actually learn some wisdom from their elders because their elders have taken the trouble to be respectable and wise. A world where it’s actually sensible to participate in the ways we govern and nurture ourselves and look after others because we do our best at it and respect ourselves and others who try. Hey Christina – a world in which we’ve taken the trouble to know ourselves and understand what a good life might be and care enough to work for it. If we got that for ourselves, if we thought enough of ourselves to demand it, we wouldn’t be able to help being good to each other, because that’s what being good to each other requires.

Fascinating

Say what you will about Sarah Palin's Facebook editors, but they censor comments with stunning efficiency - as long as the comments are critical of Palin. However, there are certain comments that do get left up with apparent full awareness on the part of Palin's staff. This one written by one of her minions in about the nine-year-old girl who was killed by Loughlin is particularly egregious:
It's ok. Christina Taylor Green was probably going to end up a left wing bleeding heart liberal anyway. Hey, as 'they' say, what would you do if you had the chance to kill Hitler as a kid? Exactly.
The woman who wrote those comments, Tina King, will find there is a special place in Hell for those who could be so callous.

Telling it like it is

Pima County Sheriff calls out the hatemongers. You'll also note that although one person has already been arrested for the mass shooting/murder, there has been word of a possible accomplice or accomplices. One is currently a "person of interest" who happens to be a 50-something white male.