I must admit I am still frustrated, even angry, with the on-going political commentary concerning Saturday's mass shooting in Arizona. Matt Yglesias, Duncan Black, and Digby, among large-traffic liberal bloggers, have written quite a bit - with digby clearly out in front with the whole "It's the right's fault because they use violent rhetoric!" angle - including stirring defenses of the politicization of this event. The discovery of a similarity between some of Loughner's beliefs, expressed in his YouTube uploads, and those of one David Wynn Miller is adding fuel to the inferno of the whole view that, sure Loughner may be legally insane, but he was insane in a certain way which gives us license to make all sorts of accusations about our political opponents.
Of course, the right has enough evidence to give them tools to shoot back. Loughner's reading list includes The Communist Manifesto, Fahrenheit 451, and other classics of liberal education. It also includes Mein Kampf (full disclosure, I have read the first and last of these, but not the middle). All of which, really, means absolutely nothing.
There is no way to stop the endless flow of stupid crap, sides-taking, pointing fingers. I mean, really, not only is it fun, it doesn't involve any effort, it gives one a sense of moral and political superiority to make clear that a mass murderer is one of The Other. We congratulate ourselves on "proving" that he is One Of Them. It's cheap, it's easy, and like most such things, it is wrong.
To the morally righteous who insist we must denounce violence, I posted yesterday in order to remind readers that ours is a society so soaked in violence we do not even notice it anymore. Taking the opportunity of an event like this to denounce violence may make one feel better. It would be less egregiously hypocritical and shallow if one spent some time, each and every day, denouncing the attrition among the poor, among women and children, a steady-stream of broken bodies and lives we tune out because it is so common.
To the oblivious, who wonder, "What is happening to us?", I can only say, "Nothing new." Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, and John Kennedy were successfully assassinated. Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama have been targets of high-profile failed assassination attempts (more full disclosure - my grandmother happened to be in Niagara Falls in 1901 when Pres. McKinley was assassinated, a reward from her grandmother for good grades in school). From Shays Rebellion in Massachusetts to the New Orleans police department using the Katrina flood as an excuse to murder African-Americans, our country has seen violence as a legitimate tool for making political and social statements. It's just a fact. Violence is, indeed, as American as cherry pie. Who holds the gun is an important consideration, but at the end of the day, it seems, in America, someone is always holding a gun.
Before we start casting aspersions on our political opponents of whatever stripe, or claiming we are king of moral hill because we can denounce violence, we need to take a good, long look at the country, the state, the city in which we live. We need to hear the cries of the families whose lives are disrupted by violence every day. This event may have a whole cluster of specific markers about it that may, indeed, mark it out as some kind of political statement, fed in part from the poisonous rhetorical atmosphere - when Democrats are denounced as standing for policies that are contrary to American tradition and law; when the President of the United States is denounced as an anti-American foreigner holding political views antithetical to our traditions, is it any wonder there are folks out there willing to pick up a gun and solve our problems this way? - but, right now, I think we need to take a moment and look around us. The bodies lie unburied, the cries of the slain call out just to be noticed. Instead of shouting about how evil are those who don't think like we do, we might all shut up, listen, and maybe do something about the carnage in which we stand, the killing floor that is America and its history.