Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More debate, less hate

I have been writing (it seems like way too frequently) over the last year about my concern over the pervasiveness of hatred in the political discourse in this country. The weekend shooting in Arizona really pissed me off.

Some coverage in the New York Times today alluded to the distress Rep. Gabrielle Giffords felt over vandalism that took place at her office after she voted for passage of President Barack Obama's health care reform bill. She reportedly told a television interviewer the day after some threw a rock or shot a pellet gun through a window in her office that "things have really gotten spun up," in reference to the backlash from people in her congressional district in Arizona. The district has been referred as one of the most tense in the nation, and the shooting that left six dead and injured 14 others, including the congresswoman, is evidence of that.

Apparently people there are upset over immigration, perceived out of control government spending, health care reform, and the fact that Obama is president. Some are careful to refer to the shooting in Tucson as an act committed by a disturbed individual. But it's difficult to overlook the impact of the rhetoric of Tea Party supporters and other opponents of the current administration on people who are much more impressionable than you and me.

The Times article mentioned an incident involving, Jesse Kelly, a challenger of Giffords' primary last summer who reportedly had Tea Party backing. Kelly is said to have held a fundraiser, during which he invited contributors to shoot an M-16 along with him. And of course, you've probably heard about Sarah Palin's tweet last year that suggested to followers that they shouldn't retreat from those supporting the current administration's policies, but "instead -- reload." That Twitter post, according to reports, asked followers to go to her Facebook page where they could find a list of 20 Congress members with symbols of gun cross hairs placed over their geographical locations. Giffords was one of them, and the congresswoman she spoke out against the post. The Palin camp backtracked in light of the shooting and described the cross hairs as surveyors' symbols. What?! I still can't believe that was the best they could do. They should have claimed someone hacked into her account.

Regardless of your politics, suggesting anyone be shot because of their thoughts on health care or immigration is irresponsible -- at best. It should be criminal.

Today, the people from MoveOn.org began circulating a petition, accompanied by the following statement:

"While we may never know what exactly motivated the shooter in Arizona—and while there are many lessons to draw from this tragedy—one thing is clear: Our country must turn away from the culture of violent, hateful rhetoric that has been pervading our political discourse for too long.

Nearly 200,000 people have signed our "Debate, not hate" petition. It calls on politicians and the media to stop spreading hateful rhetoric and implicit appeals to violence. Can you sign the petition today? "

Here's a link, if you're interested: http://pol.moveon.org/debatenothate/?id=25774-17647285-LZbl8Cx&t=1

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