Sarah Palin and her brothers and sisters in arms (pun intended) feel they have been wronged. They say there is a leftwing conspiracy to blame them for the act of an extremist—some crazy nutjob who went on a shooting spree in Tucson, Arizona which resulted in twenty people being shot, six were killed. One of the injured who is in critical condition is Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. An irony of this is she is a supporter of "gun rights." Maybe when she recovers she will join folks like James Brady, an assistant to former President Ronald Reagan, who was shot and later became an advocate for strict gun control to curb gun violence.
"Poetic justice," some Muslims might say in response to Palin's crying foul. No doubt Muslims who have been unfairly blamed and generalized for decades can give the American Right some insight in how to cope with it.
Edward Said, one of the most eloquent advocates for Palestinian rights and critic of Zionism and American Imperialism, wrote in an updated introduction to Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World about how Muslims are one of the few remaining social groups that it is okay to be prejudiced towards in America. The bigoted generalizations about Arabs and Muslims would not fly if they were similarly applied to Jews or blacks. It is socially acceptable to equate Muslims, who comprise of over one billion people from dozens of countries with a rich and diverse variation of cultural traditions, with nineteen extremists, mostly from Saudi Arabia. This was at the heart of the issue of so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in Manhattan. The bigoted outcry was that a mosque near Ground Zero was offensive, simply because they were Muslim and the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks were Muslim (meanwhile Saudi Arabia received without protest hundreds of billions of dollars in arms sales). Hardly anyone pointed out that a church is across the street from the memorial for the Oklahoma City Bombing where a Christian killed hundreds of people. Or how about all the Christians who have attacked abortion clinics? White Christians have committed more acts of political violence in this country than Muslims yet white Christians aren’t singled out.
Palin has offered some empty platitudes on violence, saying it’s wrong but she has yet to apologize or make amends for her own rhetoric that is peppered with violence. Last year she tweeted to her followers not to “retreat” but to “RELOAD!” Her map showing twenty Democrats who made headway in Republican territory and calling for taking it back had gun sights on the locations with the names listed below. The recently shot Congresswoman Giffords as everyone knows by now was one of the names.
Did Jared Loughner, the shooter, see that map? Did it play a part in why he carried out the shooting?
We honestly don’t know. So in that sense Palin and some on the right are right to say they are unfairly being blamed.
But that doesn’t really excuse their violent rhetoric. Supporters of the Tea Party astroturf movement have shown up at rallies with guns, or where they came unarmed they threatened to bring them the next time in a threat that was conveying the message that if they don't get their way they will get violent. Speakers have talked about watering the tree of liberty with blood and so on.
In the meantime it is important to address the rhetoric of the right, but also to make a point to point out the liberal left is using it for political capital while the Democrats have violent rhetoric of their own. How many jokes has Obama made about sending drones? Or what about Hillary Clinton's comments about blowing up Iran? And more important than rhetoric is actions. The Democrats have just as much Iraqi, Afghani and Pakistani blood on their hands as the Republicans. The State Department just awarded a contract to a firm closely associated with Blackwater to provide “security” in the West Bank. We are a violent nation. Every year we lead the developed world in gun violence. Our children are constantly exposed to violence on television and in movies and video games, which is often seen as the solution to our problems. Hell, walk through the toys section at Wal-Mart and the toys for boys consists of a lot of violent-based weapons and action figures equipped with weapons. While young girls are conditioned to be caregivers, young boys are conditioned to be violent. Our schools glorify military leaders and romanticize our wars. We spend a $1 trillion each year on the military. To understand the extent of militarization this entails think about this: we spend more than half of what the rest of the world spends each year and even if we cut our military spending down by a factor of ten we would still have the highest spending per capita than any country in the world. Nearly every aspect of our society is saturated with violence and violent images.
It’s too soon to tell why what happened in Tucson happened but it’s not too soon to address our history of violence and to begin doing something about it. Back in the 1960s, the Chicago Museum of Science set up a diorama of a Vietnamese village in which American children could be on the outside with guns and shoot into the village and try to kill people. The event caused Noam Chomsky to say, "One has to ask whether what the United States needs is dissent or denazification."
Well, which is it?