Words can not express the shock, the anger and the frustration of the tragic incidents in Tucson. However anyone who has been in politics long enough and with any kind of respect for social decorum will have to recall and agree that more than once they have been concerned about meeting a Jared Lee Loughner in some form or fashion at a political meeting or rally.
While the ultimate blame is solely held by the accused there’s plenty of social blame to go around. Sarah Palin in fact deserves every single bit of the criticism and challenges to her movement as a result of this massacre. What is even more concerning about Palin is her foolish use of the term “blood libel” to inappropriately charge back on the day of the memorial, a move in bad taste unto itself to prop herself up for further political gain.
Then again protesters that supported Al Gore’s extended re-count weren’t very nice and did a lot to raise the blood pressure of the body politic. Never to be left out the President’s own “they bring a knife we bring a gun” campaign rhetoric certainly adds heat to a boiling pot. Better late than never that he at least has attempted to change the national mood with his significant speech at the Memorial this past week.
It is the hate speech that generates contempt. It is this constant barrage of vitriol politics that breeds a ground for the socially inept and paranoid as we all become desensitized to our better angels. It is this degrading of our innate reactions to what is socially unacceptable behavior in political debate that continues to leave room for people like Jared Lee Laughner to come and go among us at Tea Parties, Pride Marches, Immigration Reform Rallies and Abortion Rights or Pro-Life vigils and everyday life gatherings. They walk among us as a sort of oddball until the actions of the most zealous or mentally disturbed either become too disruptive or so catastrophically destructive that we are brought to a stand still as a nation and the world at large.
Joe Scarborough’s piece in Politico this week clearly points out some of my own similar experiences as a candidate. People hurling insults, threats and demanding my remorse for my “not being conservative enough”. During discussions with one self describe Tea Party activist on the issue of immigration no solution I offered was what he wanted. In challenging his demands I simply told him that “it seems apparent in his form of short hand debate that anything short of shooting anyone of Hispanic descent walking around in the desert or working in as he put it a so called job that only an Illegal does and then determining if they should be buried in Mexico would be a lack of effort in enforcing immigration policy”, his smirked face response was “now you are talking about a good start”. As I sadly walked away to take the stage all I could think was that racism, contempt for society and lack of human kindness is rampant among the body politic. Let’s make no doubt that’s why we don’t even notice the mentally bizarre and dangerous till it is too late.
But why do socially inept and sociopathic personalities find their way into our political discussions? Well first and foremost it is about their Constitutional rights. As long as they have the right to vote they will and can participate and they in fact have their 1st Amendment rights to Free Speech if nothing less. However it is up to us as a society and as local communities or parties of interest to set the bar high for the debate. It is incumbent upon us as individual leaders to define the rules of engagement for discussions on the issues. We must constantly remind each other that the purpose and the call of duty is to build a more harmonious civilization and not to annihilate its differences.
Some clowns I met on the campaign trail who were other candidates in other races who attack their own party members with name calling as much as the other side the way I was attacked on one particular occasion only make it easier to raise the rhetoric against the opposition to a blood letting shrill. It should not be applauded. It is pure desperation by some less than serious candidates who just want to shock and awe the crowd. In particular this candidate wasn’t even one of my US Senate opponents but a candidate for a US House seat. He may have thought making inflammatory insults in poor taste proved he was more conservative and thought he could do that by making a statement about how to deal with others who differed with him by using a “firing line”. Perhaps this reflected his view that it was all just part of a show. But to this individual’s and Sarah Palin’s dismay politics is not a “Reality Show”. Politics is reality.
Most of it is the reality we create. Thus we must end this nightmarish period of American politics that puts too much attention on what’s said and how mean spirited it is said to prove our convictions. I myself may have fallen trap to this weakness and reaffirm to myself and others that I will be doing my part to measure my words and I apologize for anything ever taken to the extreme. We must begin to ensure that we can productively do what must be done and learn to appreciate the manner in how it is done. That my fellow Americans is how we continue to build upon that “City on a Hill” that Ronald Reagan saw for us.
Come to think of it, wasn’t it Reagan’s majestic gentleness, optimism and vision of aspiring for excellence that all those Tea Partiers are protesting that they want back?
© 2011 by Al Ramirez. Used With Permission. All Rights Reserved.