by David Safier
The Star had a very thoughtful editorial this morning which I should have posted about earlier but didn't. So here's my belated post.
The editorial is a soul searching piece that rambles through a lot of thoughts and feelings, as a piece like that should. Its point is, we want to make sense of this tragedy, but can't.
One passage about "trafficking in violent imagery" stands out for me because I've been thinking and writing about it so much lately:
We seek answers where sometimes there are none to find.
The immediate reaction of some has been to point to the poisonous atmosphere that has engulfed Arizona and the nation.
Gun imagery, talk of "targeting" elected officials and taking out political opponents have become pervasive. The bitter 2010 election turned up the volume. Demonizing people who have different opinions makes for easy media punditry and cheap entertainment.
It needs to stop. Trafficking in violent imagery and treating any person, whether an elected official or someone who supports a particular cause, as objects makes them almost an abstract. It's too easy to hate an abstract.
Whether or not the gunman was motivated by a particular political ideology or pumped up by the trash that passes for discourse is, in the most fundamental way, immaterial.
And it's not the reason to stop the pervasive and corrosive rhetoric. The reason is so much simpler – the demonizing is tearing apart our country from within. When we see each other as the enemy, we cannot rise above and come together for the greater good.
It shouldn't take a massacre for us to talk to each other instead of only about each other.
Maybe "it shouldn't take a massacre" to force a discussion and, we can only hope, move us toward toning down the demonizing, dehumanizing rhetoric, but unfortunately, that's what it has taken. And that's why we need to take advantage of this moment to look at what's been said and, when appropriate, give examples and name names.
No, Sarah Palin's map with gun sights didn't have any direct relationship to Saturday's horror so far as I know. That's not what people are saying. That map is emblematic of the kind of rhetoric and imagery which have become pervasive recently, coming predominantly from the Right, and the inevitable outcome of so much violence laid into political speech is that some of it is inevitably going to turn into death threats, acts of vandalism and minor violence, and on rare, terrifying occasions, the kind of horror we all lived through Saturday and will continue to live through for a long, long time.