Tag Archives: political vitriol

A Time to Heal

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our

heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove

ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will.

Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and

pure manners.  Save us from violence, discord, and confusion;

from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend

our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes

brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue

with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust

the authority of government, that there may be justice and

peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we

may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.

In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness,

and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail;

all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

From the Book of Common Prayer

 

The tragic events of Saturday January 8th 2011 have revealed the best and the worst aspects of our society. From the heroism of individuals and the kindness and prayers offered by many in this time of darkness to blame being spread about by those seeking to demonize their opponents once again.  The tragedy was scarcely hours old when partisans on the left and the right without any real evidence sought to blame the actions of Jared Lee Loughner on those Americans that have become their enemies.

In the midst of a real war against enemies that attacked us we have engaged in a political civil war that is only equaled in hatred, bitterness and rancor by that which consumed the nation in the years preceding the Civil War or in Germany’s Weimar Republic. Led by a new class of take no prisoners’ political pundits and talk show hosts politicians of both major parties have allowed the tenor of political debate in the land to descend to the crassest, hateful and even violent rhetoric imaginable.  Ordinary citizens now see those that disagree with their party or ideology as enemies and not fellow American citizens worthy of their respect and forbearance.  Both sides have had elements resort to physical violence and intimidation at polling places, local party headquarters and political rallies.

Preachers of many faiths and opposing ideologies have allowed their pulpits to become bastions of bombast and do all that they can to ensure that others know that God is on their side and not the other.  By doing this they make a mockery of faith before a watching world and all for the sake of a share in the spoils of hard wrought political victory.  The words of Jesus to “love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you” are lost on such preachers who are no better and perhaps worse than the pundits, talk show hosts and politicians that have done the same. Men and women of faith should know better. It seems they forget the passage of Isaiah quoted by Jesus “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Quite simply while our military wages a war abroad and police agencies seek to prevent more attacks we have allowed ourselves to declare war on each other.  Without a shred of evidence from the accused as to why he committed this crime we have labeled the other side responsible for the attack of a madman based on hearsay while ignoring the few things that the accused had communicated. This isn’t public debate or political discourse it is civil war.

In fact the verbiage used by the political combatants is that of war. There is a culture war, a war against the family, a war against the elderly, a war against the poor, a war against immigrants, a war against workers, you name it the terminology is there, it is if we are waging a Jihad against each other. People talk of armed revolution, the shedding of blood or military coups and some actually pray prayers for the death of political leaders of whom they disapprove. The difference in 2011 than in 2007 is that the ideologues making these statements are from different parties; now the target of the anger is President Obama rather than President Bush.

What it all comes down to is that it really doesn’t matter if Jared Lee Loughner is a liberal or conservative. We have strong reason to believe that he is mentally ill. But even still his ideas that he espoused on his web posts didn’t occur in a vacuum.  Loughner’s may be mixed up and at times nonsensical but they still come from somewhere because as screwed up as some of his ideas are they occur in saner form on a daily basis.  In our hate filled political and social climate where adversaries don’t measure the impact of their words on the maladjusted or the mentally ill Loughner probably picked up a mixed bag of hatred and make it his own.

On Wednesday night President Obama gave what I thought was the best and most thoughtful speech of his Presidency. He made the speech about the people not him and he brought words of comfort to a hurting community. He mentioned the political climate in passing in these words referring to the hopes and dreams of the youngest victim Christina Green:

“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle…. I want us to live up to her expectations.  I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.  All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”

The speech was in my view having always admired President Ronald Reagan was “Reaganesque.”  I have not shed a tear during a Presidential speech for a very long time, perhaps dating back to the Challenger speech.  I was touched by the President’s words and have included the link here.
http://www.nowpublic.com/world/barack-obama-tucson-speech-transcript-video-arizona-memorial-2747009.html#ixzz1AxvgVzXg

I think it is fitting that we also remember the closing words of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address given not long before he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln knew that the great divisions in the country that resulted in the Civil War would not go away with the defeat and dissolution of the Confederacy as they were too deep and in fact in some ways still with us today.  But with words seldom equaled by an American President he said.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

It is time that we choose to work to heal our divisions as Americans, as people of faith and people that believe we have been and still can be that shining city which has been a beacon to freedom loving people of all races, nationalities, creeds and colors. We are better than what has been represented by members of the media, pundits, politicians and yeas preachers.  I hope we can again learn to love and respect one another again even though we may not agree and may we lay down the language of hate and replace it with love.

In the words of this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us

through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole

human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which

infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;

unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and

confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in

your good time, all nations and races may serve you in

harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ

our Lord.  Amen.

 

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under faith, philosophy, Political Commentary

The Day after the Attack on Congresswoman Giffords: Pointing the Finger of Blame without Evidence and Raising the Extremist Language to a New Level

Aftermath of the attack on Congresswoman Giffords: What Next?

A day after he shot and wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, killed Judge John Roll and 5 others and wounded 11 more innocent people the motives and beliefs of Jared Lee Loughner are still clouded in mystery and subject to conjecture.  Those on the political left have blamed the influence of the Tea Party movement and those on the far right conservative web are saying that Loughner was a liberal. There are also reports that he could be affiliated in some way with the White Supremacist anti-Government group American Renaissance. At this point we still don’t know much but we can begin to look at probabilities based on the limited amount of evidence at hand.

The hard right exemplified by the people at World Net Daily, News Max and News Busters are claiming that Loughner is a “liberal” or “fascinated by liberal political thought.” They base this on the statement made on Twitter by a woman that claims to have known him in High School but has not seen him in years, 2007 to be exact.  Hardly what I would call a truly knowledgeable source but all of these sites are taking her statements at face value.  That is very poor journalism at best and pure partisan propaganda at worst. I lean to the latter because all of these “news” sites have one goal in mind and that is to defeat and demonize liberals.  They have made the claims without even questioning the source. They don’t ask why someone that hasn’t seen Loughner in four years would be marketing this story to the media.  What is her background, how well did she know him and what are her political affiliations? They also ignore others that know him who thought that he was a “normal kid” and were shocked by what he had done.  The uncritical approach of these sources has now spread across the “conservative” blogosphere like wildfire and my bet is when it is disproved as I think that it will be that none of these news sites or bloggers will retract their words.

The left claims that the Tea Party influence has to be a factor.  While we don’t know if Loughner had any connection with the Tea Party movement he echoes some Tea Party themes in his web postings. Personally I doubt if Loughner was a member of the Tea Party but I cannot rule it out but my gut tells me otherwise.  That being said Loughner’s posts on his My Space and You Tube pages echo common themes of the Tea Party as well as groups which are much more violent than the Tea Party is.  Look at his themes and tell me if they are what one would traditionally equate with liberalism:

Distrust of current government: This is a common theme of the party which is out of power and has recently more often associated with the political right and in particular the Tea Party movement which often decries Republican moderates as much as they do Democrat liberals. Likewise far right extremists groups echo that sentiment but in much more conspiratorial ways.  There are liberal groups that also espouse this but they tend not to be as numerous or loud as those on the right.

Return to the Gold Standard and a New Currency: His posts ramble but he seems pretty clear that he does not approve of the Federal Reserve or government control of currency and supports currency backed by gold and silver. This is not a tenant of liberalism but often is found in parts of the political right.

Complaints of Illiteracy: One of the hallmark themes of some right wing commentators such as the very incendiary Michael Savage is “borders, language, culture.” Loughner in particular was a critic of the lack of literacy of Americans in general but even more pointedly those in the congressional district in which he lives. Once again this is a subject, especially in relation to immigrants and the use of English that is more a theme of conservatives than it is liberals.

Vague References to the Constitution and Unconstitutionality of Federal Laws: In his internet posts Loughner makes a number of references to the Constitution, such as how most Americans have never read it and that we do not need to “accept Federalist laws” and to “read the United States of America’s Constitution to apprehend all of the current treasonous laws.” This is a common theme of the far right which believes that many laws are unconstitutional.

Government Mind Control: This is something not from either the political right or left but from the realm of anti-government conspiracy theorists.

Unbelief in God and Religion: The manner in which he states this is similar to those on the nihilistic fringe of anti-government White Supremacist groups.

There is also the fact that Congresswoman Giffords has never been the target of the left but has been the frequent target of the Tea Party and others on the right and that it would be illogical for a Democrat or leftist to kill one of their own, even a moderate that is not associated with the far left of the Democratic Party who recently voted against Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House.

My belief is that Loughner is a severely mentally disturbed individual who has been influenced at various times by different ideologies from the right and left with more of the radical right wing though being present now. I do not know what further investigation will prove or rule out.  I doubt if he was part of any larger conspiracy but a thorough investigation will probably show some connection with White Supremacist or racist extremist groups with some Tea Party ideological influence but no formal connection to the Tea Party.

Right now as I am patient to point out it is wrong to blame his actions on any group at this point, too little is known and I believe that those on the right that are calling Loughner a Democrat and liberal will have egg on their face at the end of the day.

The authorities have now determined that Loughner acted alone and that he planned the attack in advance ruling out a person of interest.

In the end the reaction, especially that from extremes, especially the right in this case will continue to stoke the fires of intolerance and hatred and likely sow the seeds of even more attacks on political leaders, judges and other government officials and even potentially members of the media.  As much as I hope and pray that this attack will help end such inflammatory language in politics and violent acts I think that they will continue. The extremists have too much invested to back down and as the reaction on the blogosphere demonstrates there is little concern with what actually occurred in Tucson and the lives lost or shattered but rather a continued escalation of extreme rhetoric which in my belief will only lead to greater violence and bloodshed.

Where this ends I can’t be sure, but history points to a tyranny being established by the most extreme and organized elements in the debate.  We can be sure that it will not be a more civil discourse and return to moderation. That would be a defeat for the extremists which they will not allow to happen.  I expect more physical confrontations at political rallies with roughnecks and bullies using physical violence and intimidation against their opponents. Likewise I expect the heated vitriol to become more so and calls to violent action to increase with corresponding increases in political violence.  We are not far removed from street battles between extremists and death squads which target the opposition or anyone for that matter that deviates from the party line.  I am not optimistic because I know human nature and history.

God help us.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under History, philosophy, Political Commentary