I feel as though I have been liberated.
I’ve been in with a cold pretty much since the year began. Sorry to have gone quiet on you, but I can’t seem to write when I’m all hopped up on cold medicine. Snuffling and under the influence, I find it impossible to remember how I started a sentence by the time I get to the end. Either my sentences are too long or the Tylenol Severe Cold Formula has kicked in. Whichever the case, I didn’t want to put you at risk.
But, all better now.
I’ve spent the past week nursing my shattered feelings as well my cruddy health. The events in Tucson have left me stunned and speechless – a rare occurrence.
Of course my first reaction is, as always, thank heaven the lunatic was able to buy a gun. Congrats to all those in congress who voted to end the ban on assault weapon sales in 2004. Way to go. Great idea. Really worked out. What’s next? Grenade launchers at Sears?
Those who are supposed to lead spend more time pandering to the lowest common denominator than governing or inspiring us to higher ideals. It is sad that in the face of this gun related tragedy there is not enough courage among our alleged leaders to do anything about the problem. If the guy had showed up with a knife instead of an assault weapon, how differently this might all have ended.
But even more than our refusal to address the corrupting influence of the gun lobby and all well funded special interest groups, I am more concerned with our interpretation of the first amendment than the second. The sad events in Arizona have raised troubling questions about the tone of our national conversation.
The President has called for a more civil discourse. There even seems to be some movement, a real effort on the part of many, to agree to disagree more agreeably.
Of course, the big quitter from Alaska is still determined not to lead — though hardly anyone’s asking her to since her formal refusal to do so at the state gubernatorial level. I guess Grizzly-Pit-Bull-Moms do believe that their day has come, but they don’t believe in having the good manners to say “I’m sorry for rhetorically targeting you for assassination.” It is a shame she doesn’t even possess the good taste to shut up about herself at someone else’s funeral.
I’m sure Quitter Palin will support my first amendment rights to call for someone to please blow her head off — with votes and the remote, of course, since declining television ratings would be worse for her than losing another election. I know that she’d endorse my right to call for her desperately media hungry family to be chopped up into little pieces — by the critics, of course — and fed to the dogs of public opinion, all poetically speaking. Isn’t that my right? And she doesn’t seem to mind what people say about her. She’s been such a good sport so far – right, Mr. Letterman? Tina? Katie?
In fact, it’s not at all clear that the deranged young man in Tucson was inspired by the irresponsible words and oaths of those politician and pundits who are abusing their considerable power in office and the media. It is interesting to me though, how quickly the topic came up and how much longer it has persisted than the story of the tragedy itself.
I continue to believe that we confuse the right to free speech with freedom from taking responsibility. Shouting fire in a crowded theatre is NOT different than calling for an angry and heavily armed electorate to “reload” or saying that if ballots don’t work, bullets will. Attaining the age of consent comes with rights AND responsibilities. Calling for the assassination of anyone, metaphorically or otherwise, is calling for their assassination. Calling Dr. Tiller “Tiller the Killer”, as one irresponsible television hack repeatedly did, was a key and undeniable element in the man’s recent assassination by domestic terrorists.
These don’t seem to be free speech issues to me. Still, I’m not sure how I would want them enforced. I suppose civil penalties seem the most likely, but that puts the burden on the victims. Perhaps fines? But then who to enforce? I am more afraid of the return of McCarthyism than all the bombast on all the cable news channels. I miss the old days of personal responsibility and editorial discretion that preceded the 24 hour news cycle.
I do still firmly believe that we need to reclassify prejudice and the irrational hatred of others as mental illness. In fact, I think we could also broaden the definition to include ignorance. I don’t think people suffering these maladies should be locked up or drugged or given shock treatment. I’m not sure anyone but the most violently disturbed should be — the shooter in Tucson, for instance. Ignorance and prejudice are undeniably mental conditions though and happily the cure for both is the same – education.
Meanwhile, I begin this New Year with hope.
I hope we will move toward a more civil discourse. I hope that our leaders will do more leading and less pandering, baiting and posturing. Most of all, I hope that as we demand our rights to free speech, or to keep and bear arms, or to petition the government for the redress of our grievances that we take up our responsibilities with equal fervor.
We can’t all just quit and get a gig on Fox.