It is sadly ironic that at an event roughly three years ago Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) took a question from Jared Lee Loughner. Last weekend the 22-year-old Loughner tried to assassinate Giffords at a Tucson Safeway, killing six other people and leaving Giffords in critical condition. According to two of his high school friends the question Loughner had asked Giffords three years ago was, “What is government if words have no meaning?” The last post on Loughner’s My Space page before the tragic event was exactly the same sentence.
Putting aside the very real possibility that the three-named killer (John Wilkes Booth, Mark David Chapman, Lee Harvey Oswald, et.al.) was an MK-ULTRA Manchurian Candidate assassin triggered by this sentence, the sad irony lies in the sentence itself. If the Tucson bloodbath tells us anything it is that words do have meaning.
Some have called attention to Loughner’s ties to a right-wing extremist group. Others have pointed to Sara Palin’s use of crosshairs to “target” the Arizona race. There was the 2010 campaign event where her opponent invited voters to, “Get on target for victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”
Two years ago hundreds of fringe right Arizonans showed up at an appearance by President Obama carrying weapons. If the left would have showed up with weapons at a Bush appearance they would have all been tear-gassed and sent to Guantanamo. Last year Arizona passed a draconian anti-immigration law. Just weeks ago the state denied organ transplants to some of its poorest dying citizens, revealing its own version of “death panels”.
But while Arizona has become a national embarrassment, it holds no monopoly on the nation’s pathetic state. During last year’s health care debate, there were violent incidents fomented by right-wing crazies all around the US. Just outside the doors of the Capitol, Tea Party illitterati hurled homophobic insults directed at Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and racist venom at Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO), while compatriot thugs packed weapons on the National Mall. Right-wing church folk show up at the funerals of gay Iraqi war veterans wishing them a warm stay in hell.
Democrats repeatedly asked the Republican leadership to call off their rabid dogs. They did nothing.
The very basis of democratic society is disagreement and vigorous debate. The very basis of human interaction is respect. We cannot have a healthy democracy without a basic respect for the humanity of the other side.
This loss of respect can be traced back to the rise of Rush Limbaugh. Before Limbaugh, we debated issues. But the 8th-grade educated Limbaugh made it personal. The corporate media engineered Limbaugh as a divide and conquer sycophant who played to people’s fears. His success ushered in hate-mongers Coulter, Hannity, Goldberg, Palin, Beck, O’Reilly and other idiocracy bestsellers.
The readers of their diatribes watch Fox News. They are frightened. They didn’t get enough love from their parents. They all seem to have the same smirk. They repeat the same clichés. They are repeaters.
Progressives tried to get along with these people for years, showing them the same respect due all of creation. This kindness was misinterpreted as weakness. The bullies had Stockholm Syndrome. They liked to defend the corporations and the bankers, while attacking the poor and the “government”. The cowardly bellicose Fox New repeaters lacked courage. They lacked love. They lacked compassion. In the end their propensity for bullying became very difficult to respect.
Enter Olbermann, Maher, Moore, Franken, Maddow and Schultz. The left had tired of being a punching bag. It was time to fight back. But the repeater idea that “both sides” have to tone down their rhetoric is laughable. There is honest debate and then there is Stockholm Syndrome.
The difference was apparent to anyone who watched the handover of the House by Democrats to Republicans. Outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi heaped (undeserved) praise upon incoming Speaker John Boehner. Boehner did not reciprocate. Instead he waved his over-sized gavel like a 3-year-old in a sandbox. And he cried.
In the old days the Republican Party had a platform. Yes, it was all about supporting Big Business and billionaires, but at least it was a platform. Since the success of Limbaugh and his repeater prototypes, the GOP has become the party of division and fear. There are no deeds. Words are all that matter.
They are like a 50-year-old boxer trying to stay standing and earn a split decision in the 15th round. Demographics are against them. Their base consists of angry aging white folks. The country is getting younger, blacker and browner. The gap between the rich- the traditional Republican constituency- and the poor has never been greater. The middle class is washing out and becoming poor. None of this bodes well for Republicans.
So the modern-day Republican strategy centers on obfuscation and fear. The grand old party of the elite spins folksy yarns, wraps itself in a flag and manufactures fear. They created/incited the Tea Party to rail against government, after Reagan/Bush/Bush had just run up unprecedented deficits building a police state/war machine. They stake out a “family values” position to fool Christian voters, then take bribes from defense contractors and sodomize little boys in airport bathrooms. They are all about words and nothing about deeds. But words do have meaning.
If the desperate GOP wishes to play this dangerous game of incitement and obfuscation, they had better be prepared for the consequences. It would be nice to hear just one Republican step up and take just a smidgen of responsibility for the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords. It would be even nicer if the party of “personal responsibility” would just once be personally responsible for something.
But it won’t happen. Increasingly the Republican Party is a refuge for psychopaths, sociopaths, bullies, cowards, snake-oil preachers, the bellicose emotionally stunted, hypocrites and now…assassins. It’s pretty hard to respect any of that, especially in the wake of Tucson. A better question, “What is the Republican Party if their words have no meaning?”
Dean Henderson is the author of four books: Big Oil & Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families & Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics & Terror Network, The Grateful Unrich: Revolution in 50 Countries, Das Kartell der Federal Reserve & Stickin’ it to the Matrix. You can subscribe free to his weekly Left Hook column @ www.deanhenderson.wordpress.com