Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Tenor of Politics (with update)

I just posted this comment on Huckleberries Online (a news blog at Spokane's Spokesman Review), after reading Kathleen Parker's column in this a.m. I'm cross-publishing it here.

Kathleen Parker has a column this a.m., giving Sarah Palin what appears to be a pass on saying “don't retreat, reload!” in connection with her gun-sights map from last year that targeted 20 democrats across the country (one of whom was shot in the head two weeks ago and has somehow survived), while simultaneously taking to task those who use the phrase “Nazi” when convenient (which was done this week by a democratic congressman).

Here's the thing: I don't want to give anyone a pass on this kind of language and imagery.

A year ago, when Palin's crosshairs map went up on line, I was concerned. When I heard recently that Democrats did something similar in 2004 (at least with regard to the map), I was concerned. When the Dem called Repubs a Nazi last week, I shook my head in disbelief. When I see photos of anyone with a Nazi moustache - most recently it's been President Obama who has been so drawn - I think, people are crazy (and am concerned when political leaders condone the drawings).

Kathleen Parker says that Sarah Palin didn't mean that people should use their guns. But isn't it irresponsible to talk that way in the first place? And if the Dem from last week says that he didn't really mean Nazis - isn't it irresponsible to use the phrase? These are words, people - being said out loud, or typed into a computer. It takes personal action, choices, to reach the point of saying Nazi or of saying “reload.” And if it was just an accident - if Sarah Palin didn't “mean” to evoke the imagery - then why did she leave the map up in spite of people's protests at the time?

I don't care if Sarah Palin's crosshairs map - and her follow-up to “reload” - is what triggered the shooting two weeks ago. If it did, or if it did not, her advocacy for using gun targets on a political map, and her violent rhetoric, was and is a tee-up for potential violence. I don't choose sides when I am concerned about violence metaphors used by our politicians. I don't want ANY of them to do it. But she doesn't get a free pass from me on her graphic symbolism. She gets all the credit in the world - at a minimum, for upping the ante on the vitriol.

I guess what we're saying, if we accept all of this, is that our politicians are immature and/or should pander to the basest emotions in us all. That, my friends, is part of what causes reasonable people to turn away from the entire mess of politics.

When our country first began, we used to hold town halls, where the details of a politican's plan were outlined, and people could evaluate from there. That system has given way to our current soundbite culture. It is what it is. But as the president said at his speech in Arizona, I would rather see us live up to our children's expectations.

I added this:

On the same topic as above: I very much appreciated this op-ed piece by Senator John McCain in the Washington Post recently:

Speaking substantively - having intelligent debates - is a heck of a lot harder than throwing mud. But if you have the debate, I promise to listen.

UPDATE: We went back and forth on the Huckleberries posting yesterday - one thing that struck me as we wrote - few out there know much about that rifle target map - it did list names - and there were three red "splats" on the districts where the Dem had decided to retire - as I mentioned on Huckleberries, I decided to look at the map itself back last March because I thought the article I was reading about it was exaggerating - when I saw the map, I remember thinking: who is going to die as a result of this map? So for me, the concern about that map has been around a very long time.

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