Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Andrew Sullivan on Sarah Palin's Reponse to Tucson Events: "Something Menacing"

Andrew Sullivan's conclusion, as he assesses Sarah Palin's gigantic failure to be a leader (or even a decent human being) in response to the Tucson events, is chilling.  And absolutely correct.  

Sullivan writes,

And she has decided that this occasion for introspection is actually an opportunity to double down.

There is something menacing about that.

Indeed.  Menace is the name of the game.  Menace--the intent to menace--is at the very ideological center of right-wing politics in the U.S., and has been firmly in place there from the time that William F. Buckley pronounced that the primary task of American conservatism is to stand athwart history and yell stop.  If anyone has lived through the last several years of political life in the U.S. and still does not see what the political right in the U.S. intends with its use of relentless, fierce, ratcheted-up, menacing and inflammatory rhetoric designed constantly to thwart necessary forward movement in any area of our political and cultural life, recent events ought to be a definitive eye-opener.

In particular, the response of major leaders of one of our two major political parties to the Tucson events and the national conversation that has emerged from those events ought to give sane citizens pause to think.  Rather than decry the climate of violence that is growing at an astonishing rate in our society, those political leaders--and Palin leading the pack--have chosen to double down on the rhetoric of violence.

And to employ it against everyone suggesting that the whole nation ought to take a deep breath and think carefully about what we're rapidly becoming.  If anyone had previously been in doubt that the rhetoric of menace--and any menacing actions that may flow from it--are intentional, are part and parcel of what the conservative movement in the U.S. has made of itself, then he or she ought to have eyes wide open now.

Now that Sarah Palin has responded.  Knowing full well that the belligerence of her response will only win her more support among a sizable minority of citizens for whom the rhetoric of violence, with the actual violence it threatens their enemies, is thrilling.

It is absolutely no accident that a South Carolina gun company is selling semi-automatic rifles with "You lie!" engraved on some of their components.  It is no accident at all that Rep. Giffords' Republican opponent Jesse Kelley sponsored an M-16 shooting event at which he brandished a rifle and invited his supporters to shoot a rifle with him as they tried to help remove Giffords from office.  It is no accident that Sarah Palin built a website with crosshairs hovering menacingly over her political enemies, and that she reinforced the message of that website with rhetoric about locking and loading.

Nor is it an accident that a member of a church pastored by the rabidly anti-gay right-wing Baptist pastor Steve Anderson in Arizona, who has said that gay human beings deserve to be put to death, brought a rifle to a Tea Party rally after Pastor Anderson had prayed for Mr. Obama's death.  The message has been clear all along: when ballots fail, let bullets prevail.  It is a message of menace designed to demonstrate to all  of one's political opponents--and to the majority in our democratic society, if that majority should get out of hand and contravene the wishes of the minority intent on standing athwart history and shouting stop--just how far the political right intends to go in assuring that its will be done.

And what is most astonishing of all about the emergence of such overt, violence-threatening fascism by the contemporary American political right is that it is now normal.  It is now acceptable.  It is impossible to challenge, since the challenge itself only elicits new levels of rhetorical violence and new threats of potential real violence to anyone who questions what the political right is doing to our society.  It is being promoted from the very center of our political process, by one of our two major political parties--by respected leaders of that party such as Ms. Palin, and by an endless train of lying, shouting, bullying talking heads of major media outlets in the U.S. who turn day into night as they invert truth and moral principles in the service of their politics of destruction.

And, shamefully, it is being promoted by elements within the religious communities of our nation that also have the cover of the center--such as the far-right "Catholic" anti-abortion group, one of whose employees continues to plaster this blog with taunting messages about gay folks in the military, while his own organization was, until recently, led by a priest who delighted in using militaristic imagery replete with violent symbols and talk of bloodshed to promote these men's "pro-life" cause.  

In the wake of the Tucson shootings, many commentators have been talking about our current crossroads moment.  In my view, Ms. Palin's response to these shootings is a sober, necessary reminder that we are now long since down the road from any viable crossroads at which we might have chosen some other path for our democracy. 

We are long since down the road that Ms. Palin herself and the party she represents have intended to take us down in recent years.  We are now far down a road whose signposts point to continued, increasing violence in our public square, for anyone who might even think about thwarting the wishes of the fascist minority intent on controlling our democracy through bullets, since their ballots have not prevailed.

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