Monday, January 10, 2011

More on the Arizona Shootings: Naming the Problem, Facing It Resolutely

Though I haven't blogged today about the shootings in Arizona a day ago, they remain very much on my mind--in particular, the horrendous loss of life that has just taken place.  I'm not entirely what I can add to what I posted yesterday on this subject.  

I am struck, however, by the shocking callousness of a sizable segment of Americans for whom there will be no discussion at all, if they can help it, of the political roots of violent acts such as the ones in Arizona, and of the responsibility that the leaders of one political party, the Republicans, bear disproportionately for normalizing this violence.  We are and always have been a violent society.  We were born in revolution and our revolutionary experiment issued in violence within a century after the formation of our nation, with a bloody civil war.  Violence is as American as mother's milk, in our political rhetoric and political life.

At the same time, in recent years, we've been crossing a line, and it's a very dangerous line to cross.  The line we have crossed is one that makes violent reprisal for certain political stances not only thinkable, but a growing possibility, in the public square in the U.S.  In the past several years, while people have carted guns to political rallies and paraded around holding signs promising bullets if ballots fail, and talking about second-amendment solutions to problems they can't solve otherwise, the party some of whose primary leaders are inciting these violent displays stands aside and does nothing to condemn the violent rhetoric, or to shun the powerful political figures who are inciting violence.

And now, when six people lie dead, including a little girl, adherents of that party throughout the U.S. want to shout down any open discussion of these issues--and to shout down this discussion in the most rhetorically violent way possible.  This ought to give anyone still sitting on the fence about these issues in American society serious reason to stop and think about where we're headed.  How many more innocent people have to die before we admit that we are reaching the point of no return?

The future of our democracy does not look bright when some of us court violence as a way to assure that anyone with countervailing political opinions keeps his or her mouth shut and relinquishes the floor to those toting guns.  Nor does it look bright as both political parties remain in a position of craven subservience to those elite financial groups who are pulling the strings as this violence--which is designed to tear apart the body politic and undermine the social state, with its already tenuous bonds--proceeds and becomes ever more prevalent in American political and cultural life.

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