Posted by: whatkindofweekhasitbeen | January 13, 2011

13th January, 2011

There are times when the world is so devoid of any rhyme or reason, so mercilessly random and volatile, that it would scare you rigid.

The year started with unholy flooding in Australia which has only got worse. It continued with the death of two immensely talented artists, Pete Poselthwaite and Gerry Rafferty, decades before their time. In the last few days, the nightmarish murder of Michaela Harte on her honeymoon has struck everyone dumb. And last weekend in Arizona, six people were killed and 14 people were injured at a public meeting.

There’s not much concrete you can say about Jared Lee Loughner, the perpetrator of the shooting, but that hasn’t stopped everyone trying all the same. His list of favourite books, for instance, has been forensically analysed, and within hours of the shooting conservative media outlets were citing the fact he’s a fan of The Communist Manifesto that he was, in the words of Republican congressman Virginia Foxx, “the liberal of liberals”. The fact Mein Kampf and Ayn Rand’s We The Living were also on the list seem to be circumstantial to Foxx. To Kill A Mockingbird was on the list too, so maybe it’s all Harper Lee’s fault. Stranger yet was Mike Huckabee taking exception to the media blaming right wingers for the actions of who he called a “whack job nut maggot”, while in the same interview invoking Loughner’s former classmates’ claims he was a “very liberal pothead”.

There probably are some leftists out there trying to make political hay out of this tragedy, but the way leaders on the right have taken any condemnation or questioning of the wider context in which these shootings have taken place and shouted “Look, the liberals are being bastards too!”, as if they’re the real victims, has been unconscionable. That ideology is trying to be ascribed in this way at all to a man with patent mental health issues is sickening. Finding out he’s a leftist, a fascist or a Jacobite can’t reverse his horrifying actions, or bring any of his victims back.

But just because there are two sides to an argument doesn’t mean both sides are equally culpable. Given that conservative American politicians are normally among the first to point out that immorality in TV, music or video games contribute to social menace, the way in which they’ve recused themselves of responsibility from their words and actions in the very real theatre of political debate has been astonishing. Even if you overlook the shooting of a democratically elected member of Congress and the people who attended her meeting, which is in itself one step away from the brink, it is incredibly reckless that those who seek the mandate of the people to make law would say things like “I want people armed and dangerous” over a tax plan as Michelle Bachman did, or that “second amendment remedies” were needed when the government becomes “tyrannical” as Sharron Angle did, or “Don’t retreat, reload”, as Sarah Palin did.

As America’s chief cheerleader of anti-government hysteria and general logic-bending, Palin has been derided for her campaign poster that placed crosshairs on congressional “targets” for the 2010 election. Shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords was of course among them, but Palin has shown the kind of conscientious approach to defending herself that she’s never given to governing. One staffer for her public action committee said that gun connotations were never intended saying “It was simply crosshairs like you’d see on maps.” You know, as in the phrase “Bullseye marks the spot”. And in a video she released yesterday she said “journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn”. I can only imagine that line made a lot of Muslims laugh incredulously. In other words, when Palin says or does something that’s fine, but someone reporting she did it is very dangerous. As for her use of “blood libel”, she really has to stop saying things she doesn’t understand because she thinks it sounds nifty, or preferably she should just stop saying things. And everyone else needs to put the gun metaphors down for good.

Barack Obama gave perhaps the speech of his Presidency last night, where he appealed for unity, for public discourse that heals not wounds, and paid individual treatment to the victims. The most poignant of these was for 9 year old Christina Taylor-Green, a sunny and precocious girl who had recently been elected to her student council. She was interested in government because she wanted to help others, especially those less fortunate. As we clamber for sense amidst the world’s current chaos and cruelty, following that little girl’s example would do us all a great service.

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