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A note on political rhetoric

I spoke to a tea party group on Saturday morning at 9 a.m., just hours before the horrific event in Arizona.  We had a perfectly fine time, I spent most of my time explaining to friends how remarkable this country was, indeed, why it was exceptional.  At one point I tried putting it something like this: You people actually invented politics, or good politics, if you like.  Before you came along and discovered your own American mind on the subject, politics was nothing more than power, force, fraud.  Whoever had the biggest guns ended up ruling, and it didn't really matter that he ruled on behalf of the one, the few, or the many.  The rule was arbitrary and cruel and terrifying to all those being ruled.  Nothing else--life, liberty, property--had as much certainty or permanence about it, as the certainty that all rule was a result of force or accident.  Certainly there were times when that rule was less arbitrary and more gentle than at other times, and human beings were grateful for those accidental moments were brief.  Politics was really nothing more than civil war and terror.

Then the Americans discovered a different way, because now politics had a different purpose.  After asserting their natural rights, and their freedom to govern themselves, they also tried to limit their own rule.  And they did.  Self government brought forth a rightful rule in the Constitution and the rule of law, therefore was based on something not arbitrary.  And they also knew that within that constitutional construct they reflected, deliberated, and argued.  This was now both a right and an obligation.  One of the reason I like the HBO: John Adams mini series is because it so engagingly and clearly revealed the loud and talkative ways of these new people. It showed that now in principle they had a right to talk and to argue.  Reflection and choice replaced accident and force, and ballots replaced bullets.  It seems ironic that we use military terms to describe our civil politics (campaign, rallying the troops, etc.); this is all we have left from the old days.

That we do all this in principle, doesn't mean that anomalies don not arise.  Presidents and other politicians are, unfortunately, sometimes assassinated or killed (never mind our Civil War for a moment).  That's why we find events like the killing yesterday in Arizona such a horror and that's why we all, of all parties and views, rightly denounce it.  (I mention in passing, by contrast, the event in Pakistan a few days ago when a governor was assassinated and much of the country publicly rejoiced and made the culprit into a hero.)

So I come to this morning.  Sen. Dick Durbin (on a talk show) is implying that our public conversations have become extreme and implying that that may be the cause of such a horrific act  ("our rhetoric is over the line"), and wondered aloud on how it could be limited ("how do you come to an agreement on what is acceptable political conversation?" and "even though it is constitutional it should be toned down") is really remarkably irksome and inapropriate.  What President Obama said ("Such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society.") and Speaker Boehner said ("An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve.") should be the alpha and the omega on the subject, the rest is without value.  Sen. Lamar Alexander (on the same show) rightly chastised Candy Crowley for even allowing the topics to be connected and said that the only way to answer Durbin's question is "civility."  Good for Alexander and good for us.

Needless to say, I am horrified by this event and the deaths, pray that the wounded recover, and especially hope that Representative Gabriella Giffords recovers fully very quickly and gets back to arguing about politics the way she has, and we have, from the beginning of this new order.
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Anyone who has looked at this guy's YouTube station understands that he was schizy. I would challenge anyone on the Left to find anything in his public statements that are rightwing (or even coherent). This attack was similar to Hinckley's attach on Reagan -- essentially apolitical. The guy was obsessive about this politician, and far too confused to be pigeonholed in either the Right or the Left.

If the national GOP allow this smear campaign, I will lose what little respect I have for them.

It's interesting to see someone speak of the Tea Party as though it is just another American political reform movement. What of their constant references to overcoming the tyranny of the state - usually most specifically the Obama administration ("white slavery", the ridiculous assertions of "Obamacare" as a "government takeover", etc., etc.) - as if they were about to cast off the shackles of a monarch (or dictator)? And their regular comparisons of themselves (start with the name) with the original American revolutionaries? What of the "We come unarmed - this time" signs, and the regular armed-vigilante appearances which clearly show that even that much restraint is lacking among far too many in this faction? (Giffords had seen many a threat from the tea party direction, and Judge Roll (RIP) had as well).

When the tea partiers were getting their start, they showed up at many a town hall meeting with intentions far short of anything remotely civil; intimidation was a recurring motif of their protests.

The paragraph about the anomalies our reaction struck me for 2 reasons. First, the attempt to locate American exceptionalism in our supposedly unified reaction to the Giffords shooting

"[W]e find events like the killing yesterday in Arizona such a horror and that's why we all, of all parties and views, rightly denounce it."

fails the sniff test. "[A]ll parties and views"?? I doubt such unity in tragedy was really ever so in America. Case in point:

[Author of the book "Death of a President", William Manchester] "discovered that in a wealthy Dallas suburb, when told that President Kennedy had been murdered in their city, the students in a fourth-grade class burst into applause." and found similar responses "throughout Dallas."

Not at all hard to fathom a similar reaction in some parts of Idaho or throughout portions of the South (for starters) if Obama were assassinated.

Giffords was pretty far from being a national household name, so one can't easily imagine widespread hatred towards her, but perhaps among Minutemen (oh, there we go again with the revolutionary references!) along the US-Mexican border, it's not hard to imagine (see the previous death threats against her and Judge Roll) some high-fives at the recent news. But imagine if the murder fantasies of Beck, Coulter, etc. came true, and someone took out Nancy Pelosi? I think some right-wingers would nearly implode upon themselves if they really were able to contain their hate-based glee from that event. We'd get sober head-shaking and crocodile tears, of course, but even those who dismiss all things in the field of psychology could see through that. And why should those who feel that Obama is a foreign-born tyrant with totalitarian and/or terrorist proclivities (choose one, some, or all of those) bent on destroying America and our way of life really be saddened if he were taken out? For those people to respond to such an assassination with sadness of any kind would be fairly bizarre. I'm reminded also of the many times I've seen/read/heard Obama described as treasonous. Those who see him as treasonous, as a traitor - well, what is typically seen as just punishment for a traitor?

and then the "contrast":

"(I mention in passing, by contrast, the event in Pakistan a few days ago when a governor was assassinated and much of the country publicly rejoiced and made the culprit into a hero.)"

Why Pakistan? Is some point trying to be made about the Pakistani people? I would love to know what that point is. I'm wondering if it would dovetail with Glenn Beck's estimate of the number of Islamic terrorists in the world. Right now, I'm thinking of the American religious right's disdain (or hatred) for secularism, separation of church and state, gays, women's "lib"/feminazis and progressivism, for starters.

It is extremely telling that liberals like Durbin are unable to tell the difference between typical Tea Party talk of limited government based on the Constitution and acts of violence and terrorism by people who are obviously not sane. This says a lot about how far some have come from the moral people the framers presupposed when they wrote "We the People" and based constitutional government on the consent of those same People. The People who created that document were not a band of thieves; they could tell the difference between a just government and a tyranny.

I'm reading that the killer in Arizona got his cue from Olbermann and Maher and Maddow. I'm hearing also that the killer was a pedophile. Any sympathy for that, Scanlon?

Again, where in any of his public statements does this lunatic come off as rightwing? If Scanlon and his ilk want simply to blame "contentious politics," it should be well understood that the Left long ago embraced such tactics. And where was Mr. Scanlon when so many on the Left were calling for Mr. Bush's assassination???

In case any one has forgotten the left-winged hated dissed on Bush and Palin - Michelle Malkin reminds us all of it today on her blog:

The pictures and posters are amazing - all from left-wing websites and people.

Hey Scanlon:

Here are some quotes from Barack Obama:

If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun. – June 2008.

I want you to go out and talk to your neighbors… I want you to argue with them, get in their faces. – September 2008.

I don’t want to quell anger. I think people are right to be angry. I’m angry. – March 2009.

If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, “We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,” if they don’t see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it’s gonna be harder, and that’s why I think it’s so important that people focus on November 2. – October 2010.

Think maybe that Loughern was inspired by our "leader"?

Can't wait to hear the response....

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