Does Political Rhetoric Go Too Far?
With the shooting of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords fresh in our minds, several media outlets are questioning if the mudslinging in U.S. politics has gone too far. I don’t think this is a question of U.S. politics alone. As we in Edmonton witnessed, and partook in, it occurs everywhere. It does appear it occurs on a much larger, more hateful and even more dangerous level in the U.S.
Immediately after Rep. Giffords was shot, Sarah Palin’s team hastily removed the now infamous crosshairs map from her website. Stating it was never meant to represent true targets, Mrs. Palin’s team is showing a great amount of short sightedness. Let’s look at Palin’s own words when the map was unveiled, “Don’t retreat, Instead – RELOAD!”(capitalization, Palin’s).
Palin’s people are stating, and rather emphatically at that, the crosshairs are actually surveyor’s marks. When you add verbalizations such as, “We’ll aim for these races and many others,” and “This is just the first salvo in a fight to elect people across the nation who will bring common sense to Washington. Please go to sarahpac.com and join me in the fight.” the surveyor’s marks seem more and more to be intended as crosshairs. When you are the great white helicopter hunter from Alaska, more at home with a gun than with a purse, the vision becomes more and more one of crosshairs.
“We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights … It was simply crosshairs like you’d see on maps.”
Can Palin’s campaign to replace democratic representatives, who voted for President Obama’s health care plan, with republican candidates be blamed for the tragic shooting in Arizona? Not directly. I doubt Mrs. Palin ever imagined this shooting would take place. But why was she so quick to pull the poster from SARAHPAC right after the shooting? Simple, she saw the writing on the wall. She realized a little too late the power of such a poster.
The shooter, 22 year old Jared Lee Loughner, according to all reports, was troubled, perhaps even mentally ill. What, then, is the responsibility of the politicos and their publicity teams? Are they responsible for the actions of a nutcase bent on shooting up a shopping centre parking lot, killing a federal judge, critically wounding a state representative, and killing a nine year old child, among others injured and killed? Directly? Probably not. Indirectly? Absolutely. All it takes is for the lunatic to see they poster and the next thing you know he has a list of targets. Crosshairs tend to make people think of GUNS, not political boundaries.
It isn’t just politicians. Religious whackos, like Westoboro Baptist Church pastor, Fred Phelps fuel the flames by spewing hateful rhetoric adhered to by the lunatic fringe. These people need just open their mouths, type on their websites, use their rhetoric as publicity and inadvertantly they are providing whackos with the fodder their imaginations require to actually pull triggers.
Allowing church leaders, politicians, their communications teams and anyone else to use potentially dangerous rhetoric MUST be controlled. While the people spewing the words are simply exercising freedom of speech and trying to infuriate their followers, don’t see the danger of their words, the psycopaths grab onto these words and read completely different meaning into them.
Politicians must be forced to look at their ads, their speeches, and their actions and see the potential disasterous outcome should the wrong person ingest the rhetoric. If they won’t do it of their own volition, perhaps it is time to legislate stupidity. To the likes of Jared Lee Loughner posters become target lists and saying we need to get rid of an opponent is a request for that opponent to be killed. As long as there are sick individuals prepared to kill 9 year olds to make a political statement, the seemingly straight thinking among us need to be responsible for the part we may inadvertantly play in their delusions.
As a side note. More and more people are saying this shooting should not be politicized. What? When a Federal Judge and state representative are shot at a political event, it IS POLITICAL!