Saturday, January 08, 2011

An Atmosphere of Hate and Violence

This morning, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot at a political event in Tuscon, AZ. As I write, details are still sketchy but early reports are saying that 12 were shot and 6 killed. Reports are conflicting as to whether the congresswoman is alive or dead. Likewise, at this time, there is no solid evidence made public that the shooting was politically motivated... Still, it is difficult to suspect anything else.

Giffords was on Sarah Palin's "hit list." This is the same Sarah Palin who has said - "don't retreat, reload." How are we to understand those statements?

In '09 a gun was dropped at a Giffords event and her office was vandalized following the healthcare votes during the last session of congress. She voted for the healthcare reform act.

An anti-Giffords event was held in June with the billing: "Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly." She won a difficult race against a Tea Party candidate.

Go into any African American neighborhood and talk politics for a length of time and inevitably someone will tell you they fully expect a serious attempt to assassinate Obama at some point during his presidency. They feel the hatred in the air

We have heard rhetoric from numerous Tea Party and Republican party folk equating the current administration with terrorists, calling for the people to rise up and "take our country back" (as if someone from the outside has stolen it), and some have gone so far as to hint at or even directly call for armed insurrection. Did they mean these statements to be taken literally? Some probably not... some likely so... In either case, it should not be a surprise that someone has taken the calls literally and has followed up with gunfire, especially in a state like Arizona which still exhibits more than a little of the "law of the gun" old west mentality and has some of the most liberal gun laws in the country.

When I worked at Haverford State Mental Hospital, my supervisor told us,"be careful what you preach... someone will believe it." He was specifically talking about the hospital patients and referred to passages like the one in Matthew that advises you to pluck out your eye if it offends you...(Matthew 5:29). He warned us that if we preached that, we might very well come to the hospital the next day, only to find a patient missing an eye. When leaders called for the assassination of political opponents, they should not be surprised when someone takes them seriously.

Speaker Boehner and Palin have both released statements of condolences and prayers... that is not enough. They, and the rest of the leadership of both the Republican Party and the Tea Party must take responsibility for their part in building this atmosphere of hatred. If they, like Palin, have used this kind of langage, they must personally apologize to the family and to the American people. Whether they personally have used this kind of language or not, they must condemn those who use such irresponsible rhetoric and incite such an atmosphere of hatred and violence that nurtures these kind of acts. As to those who continue to use this rhetoric, and some will, Republican and Tea Party leaders must condemn them and distance themselves from them.

My prayers are with the families of the victims of this horrendous act of violence and with this nation where democracy is so fragile and there are people with positions of power and influence so willing to act irresponsibly.


Bev Barnett said...

Amen. Thank you for your eloquent analysis of the overarching atmosphere of fear that surrounds us. I'm embarrassed to admit that it has been more comfortable to roll my eyes and shake my head than confront and address it. But if we don't speak out, we perpetuate the climate of fear.

Wendy Fambro said...

Another wake-up call. I pray this time it won't be followed by once again hitting the snooze alarm. And, I pray for the families of all who were killed or wounded in this attack.