Sara Whitman

Arizona Shooting: Bitter Rhetoric Needs to End

Filed By Sara Whitman | January 10, 2011 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Arizona, Gabrielle Giffords, rhetoric, shooting, speech, violence

At the end of the day on Saturday, after the memorial was done, a few of us were sitting around, laughing, talking. gabrielle-giffords-shooting.jpgI don't know who heard the news or how, but suddenly there was an iPad running a report about a shooting....


I couldn't quite understand what I was hearing. A US Representative from Arizona was shot in the head? A judge and little girl were dead? More? How many dead? One, maybe two people involved....


Another young white man armed and dangerous. I thought about Tim McVeigh. Columbine. Waco.

Was he part of a group? Do we have more to fear?

I didn't need to know if it was a liberal or right wing group - my mind was clear about that whether or not I was right or wrong - I wanted to know if there was more to come.

Representative Giffords was shot because of what she believed. The people around her were shot, and killed, because of what Giffords believed.

I've received threats and nasty notes because of what I believe. Nothing I've ever taken seriously. Nut jobs. Whatever, in the famous words of my teenage son. Now? I have to wonder... am I putting my kids in danger?

Let's be clear about one thing - right wing, left wing, this man is a terrorist. He used violence as a way to create fear. Being white, with an anglo sounding name, he was not labeled as such for quite a while.

Don't retreat, reload, says Sarah Palin.

As we head into what could be one of the most contentious political elections in our history, I hope the one thing we learn from this event is that our political discourse must change. We have to be able to think, debate and discuss without taunts or violent innuendo. Both sides are guilty of that.

I have been guilty of that.

In 1968, Memphis Sanitation workers went on strike, carrying signs that simply said, "I am a Man." It was a simple statement of dignity that demanded respect. It didn't say, You are an ignorant bigot. Stop being a racist jerk. Instead, the message was clear, powerful.

We need to return to those kind of messages, packed with emotion, without pointing a finger at someone else.

In the coming days, the debate will rage about who is responsible for this shooter's state of mind. Ultimately, he was responsible for himself. He is the one with blood on his hands.

The rest of us, right or left, need to acknowledge that it's time to change our messages. We are all responsible for the bitter rhetoric that has become commonplace in our country.

It's time for change.

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You know... everyone's quick to blame the "Rhetoric". Why is it though, in the decades I've seen this, I've never seen a liberal trying to shoot a conservative? It's always a conservative shooting a liberal (or at least someone "more liberal" than they believe themselves to be).

I've never heard any left-wing talk show host talk about "reloading" or putting out posters of people with crosshairs over their faces, or their states. I've heard plenty of right-wing hosts say that and more.

I'm all about changing the discourse and lowering tempers. But let's call a spade a spade. Until we come out and say it, and call it out for what it is, we can't fix it. Simply saying "lets lower the rhetoric" is great, but the people you're talking to aren't the ones responsible for shouting hate through a megaphone. They're the ones touting this, and using it to their advantage, even as reprehensible as that is.

Maybe you have not seen leftist rhetoric or violence because you simply choose not to. I can remind you of some, much worse than "in the crosshairs:"

"I am thinking to myself . . .if we were in other countries, we would all right now, all of us together, all of us together would go down to Washington and we would stone Henry Hyde to death! We would stone him to death Wait! Shut up! Shut up! No shut up! I'm not finished. We would stone Henry Hyde to death and we would go to their homes and we'd kill their wives and their children. We would kill their families."
Alec Baldwin

Chris Matthews fantasized on air about shooting Rush Limbaugh in the head.

Craig Kilborn posted a picture of then President Bush with a tagline of: Snipers Wanted

The list goes on and on. As for actual violence: THIS shooter was a self-described communist. The school board shooter in my home state of FL earlier this year posted rants about wall street and big business stealing from the working man prior to his shootings. David Guy McKay and Bradley Neil Crowder, two America-hating left-wing terrorists, were arrested by the FBI after conspiring to firebomb Republicans at the 2008 GOP Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Again, I could go on and on but I really do think that you see only what you want to see anyway.

You're talking about pundits and commentators on the left. Baldwin? When has he run for president? Is he even left-ist? I wouldn't say he's left. Killborn? When was he the VP candidate?

The hate on the right isn't just coming from commentators and pundits; and it's not just showing up on an occasional one-time rant. It's coming from the leadership, and it's coming on a daily basis. I can go back to under a week (or just turn on my radio today) to hear the hate and suggestions of violence from Savage or Rush or Palin or the like, not a year plus for an obscure rant from a show that most lefties don't even watch.

Let's be clear: I've never said the left doesn't have rhetoric, and that every person anyone anywhere may ever consider "left" is more peaceful than Ghandi. But generally you have to really look for it to find it on the left, and it's almost never coming from the leadership.

I just see great hypocrisy in the right calling for "everyone to turn down the rhetoric", when they've had their system turned up to full blast for the past 10+ years. The message is good, but the delivery seems quite hallow given the group that's calling for it.

As someone who's had death threats over something written on the blog, I'd also like to point out that it's not JUST the rhetoric. The anonymity of the internet is slowly teaching people that it's okay to act out scenarios that would normally only be fantasized about as they consider taking their online personality into an offline situation. They can be gruff and caustic and hateful while they hide behind a computer screen, but when Mr. Nice Guy Except Online grabs a gun and decides to take out his issues in the real world too? Then there's a huge problem that can't be blamed on rhetoric alone.

I'm also wondering about the "rhetoric" reason. Is there much proof that Loughnre was motivated by the "rhetoric"? I don't think we know that much right now.

I think it goes both ways, as far as words.

As someone who teaches "framing" and the use of strategic words, I have to say, unless both sides tone it down?

One side will win. It's powerful stuff.

But was rhetoric to blame for Loughnre? no. he is nuts. we may find that a mickey mouse cartoon gave him the idea. doesn't matter, he's nuts.

my point was to the overall tone that we're headed for in the 2012 presidential election.