Friday, January 21, 2011

We Have Met The Mark And He Is Us

In her famous video message produced in response to the shooting in Tucson, Sarah Palin famously claimed

But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

Not only was she, nor anyone on the right, to be held accountable for vitriolic rhetoric, the actions of Jared Loughner were prompted by the left- those who "manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn."

The biggest supporter- inarguably (and figuratively)- of the ex-Governor, Rush Limbaugh, agreed, in his characteristically rambling style:

I mean we could just as easily say that the left is responsible for Tucson and events like Tucson because it is the left which routinely, regularly, continually agitates, abuses, punishes, fines, name calls. The left creates this environment in which the individual is smothered, treated as worthless and degraded. The left is constantly telling us how horrible we are, how horrible our country is. The left's leader runs around the world apologizing for this country, how unfair and unjust our economic system is; how our major corporations are out to kill you, to screw you, to rip you off. They create this environment of pessimism, of self-hate and loathing, desperation. They turn citizen against citizen, blacks against whites, men against women, Hispanics against whoever, you name it. People are constantly at war with each other. How can you been proud of yourself when you're told you don't sacrifice enough for your state, you're not paying enough taxes, you're not giving enough to the cause or that your ancestors committed some horrible offense. Or, if you're unable to succeed, it's because of the Founders and the inherent racism and unfairness of your culture and our Constitution, or capitalism.

The accomplished psychiatrist, Dr. Limbaugh, alleges that Loughner started shooting because "of pessimism, self-hate, and loathing, desperation" brought about by being told by liberals that corporations are evil. Or because our President has been "running around the world apologizing for this country" and "turning citizen against citizen," pausing, presumably, to say in Tucson

And I believe that, for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

Without referring specifically to Palin or Limbaugh, Michael Kinsley observes

In the week since the Tucson, Ariz., massacre, pleas for “civility” have turned into accusations of incivility, and the whole, useful discussion of “civility” versus “vitriol” has turned into the usual argument over competitive victimhood. The vast right-wing conspiracy has played President Barack Obama like a violin.

And they’ve done a pretty good job of messing with the heads of the liberal media as well. As a result, anyone who even raises the issue of who might be responsible, or more responsible, for the “atmosphere of vitriol” in which we conduct our politics is guilty of contributing to it. In just a few days, it has become the height of political incorrectness to suggest there might be any connection between the voices on right-wing talk radio and the voices in Jared Lee Loughner’s head.

Quoting Kinsley, Open Left's Paul Rosenberg concludes "Moral: Empathy is for suckers, and Obama is the biggest of them all."

But whether Barack Obama has been "played like a violin" or is the "biggest sucker of them all" is questionable. President Obama's favorability rating, admittedly already on the rise, soared after his speech at the memorial service. The American people, clearly, like the President- really, any President- in his role as Father-In-Chief. And when Obama absolves the purveyors of incendiary political rhetoric of any responsibility and calls for civility, conservatives like Charles Krauthammer, Pat Buchanan, and Monica Crowley applaud, lending a bipartisan veneer to the Obama presidency.

President Obama blames all equally- or, rather, no one. He asserted a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do, it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that -- that heals, not in a way that wounds.

But Kinsley notes

This sounds like a noble sentiment. But who is to blame for what ails the world if not those who think differently? If those who think the same as you are responsible, it’s time to start thinking differently yourself.

That, understandably, Obama will not do. But his comments comfort those whose words have been not only hostile, but vitriolic or even incendiary. And they allow the defenders of those individuals to suggest that it is the critics of violent rhetoric who are, in Limbaugh's words, "responsible for Tucson and events like Tucson."

Meanwhile, Obama stays above the fray, balanced but hardly fair or accurate. As the far right defends the further right, liberals and Obama's Democratic colleagues are increasingly marginalized. Barack Obama, then, is not the sucker, or played like a violin; the description better applies to his loyal supporters, who are being sacrificed to further his pursuit of a second term.

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