Monday, January 10, 2011

Reloading, Surveyor's Symbols and Gun Rights

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was one of the House members targeted in Sarah Palin's infamous "Take Back the 20" SarahPAC map. I'm not going to blame Palin for the shooting, but I will blame her for the lack of foresight in not understanding what the affect can be in the incendiary rhetoric she's been peddling since she came on the scene.

And she's not the only one who has gone a little too far with the metaphors. With phrases like "pallin' around with terrorists," "don't retreat, reload," Sharron Angle's "Second Amendment remedies" and Michele Bachmann's "armed and dangerous," it was only a matter of time before someone mentally unstable person took the matter into their own hands. There have been other violent attacks. The Richard Poplawski incident in Pittsburgh immediately comes to mind. But this is the first time there has been an attack on a political official. And I can't believe that the angry Republican anti-government rhetoric has nothing to do with it.

While a definitive motive hasn't been established for Jared Loughner's attack on the ironically named Safeway, anti-government sentiment has been an issue in his online writings. Is he disturbed and unstable? Looks that way, which is why prominent politicians and pundits have to realize that their message doesn't just go out to rational people who understand that bullseyes, targets and vitriol isn't literal.

And while we are all familiar with her lack of foresight, Ms. Mama Grizzly Reality TV Caribou Hunter isn't doing herself any favors by surrounding herself with people who aren't the sharpest tools in the shed either, the latest example being a radio interview by a Palin spokesperson trying to explain away the crosshairs in the SarahPac map.

...this exchange between Palin aide Rebecca Mansour and Palin-supporting radio host Tammy Bruce is completely absurd. Bruce begins by describing the map of SarahPAC's 20 midterm election targets -- members of Congress in districts that went for McCain/Palin in 2008 who voted for health care reform -- and referring to the targets on the map as "surveyor's symbols." Mansour points out that "targeted districts" are part of political parlance -- obviously true -- and says this. (It starts at around 11:40 in the clip.)
MANSOUR: I just want to clarify again, and maybe it wasn't done on the record enough by us when this came out, the graphic, is just, it's basically -- we never, ever, ever intended it to be gunsights. It was simply crosshairs like you see on maps.
BRUCE: Well, it's a surveyor's symbol. It's a surveyor's symbol.
MANSOUR: It's a surveyor's symbol. I just want to say this, Tammy, if I can. This graphic was done, not even done in house -- we had a political graphics professional who did this for us.
Right wingers are now pointing to an old Daily Kos diary by Markos Moulitsas in an attempt to equate and diffuse in which Moulitsas uses the terms, "target" and "bullseye." But their attempt at their tried and true revisionist history falls short this time. While some can justifiably point to vitriol on both sides that needs to be toned down, in my opinion this comparison is apples and oranges, if only for the visual aids of targets on the districts the SarahPAC map wanted to "take back." That coupled with Palin's usual rhetoric, gun metaphors and especially the audience that she's trying to reach, in my opinion makes all the difference.  No one said a word about the Kos article when it came out. But there was a definite reaction to Palin's map with crosshairs, one of those being Gifford's. For Palin supporters to go back two years to search for something remotely similar on the liberal side is disingenuous.

My final point in all of the chaos of this past weekend was my realization of the lack of dialogue regarding guns and gun rights. I don't personally own a gun. But I don't begrudge anyone else owning one. You have a right to own one. But does that right preclude stricter gun laws for the sake of safety? Is there any legitimate reason to be against gun control? I say again, any legitimate reason. I have no problem with someone wanting to purchase a gun, but shouldn't there be certain procedures in place to prevent mentally unstable people from gun ownership?  It has come to light that Loughner attempted to join the military and was rejected. If the reason was due to mental instability, shouldn't there be information pipelines in place so that the FBI (whose background check Loughner supposedly passed before his gun purchase) received that info? Yet, I haven't heard a word from the mainstream media in regards to this issue. No one has even broached the subject. Maybe politicians will think twice about gun control laws now that it's hit so close to home, but I'm not holding my breath.

ADDING... I hope we as a collective group take more seriously the next instance of someone bringing a gun or an assault rifle to a political rally in which the President is present, or more closely scrutinize a gun toter looking to "water the tree of liberty."


jhw22 said...

My perspective is that it doesn't matter what the climate is or how seriously our side takes things or if our crazies respond. The point of the Kos diary should be excused away as not as bad, or irrelevant because of timing (after all, when it was written there were threats being made against the candidate Obama and Olbermann even apologized for a comment made during the primaries). The point shouldn't be, it was OK when we did it because ____ [insert justification].

The question should be do we really want the vitriol to stop? If we do then we don't need to take a tally as much as we need to not accept it. We need to not say our uses [wishes for Cheney's death are OK because he's a war criminal] are acceptable. If a friend says they wish it had been someone else, we need to tell them that's not acceptable.

The fact that we are raising the discussion to one level and ignoring the simple, every day uses of the rhetoric sets us up for being discredited, found hypocritical, and ultimately dismissed. If we want this to stop, we want everyone to be honest and fair.

NO, we are not equal. But equal isn't the issue. The issue isn't weighing one side vs another. The issue is do we want the language or not?

Yes, we need to remind America of the vitriol that has been out there and that will inevitably mean that 99%+ will be on the right as far as public statements go. But we can't ignore the private statements. We can't say that it's OK if Dems whisper the same stuff to each other. And if anyone wants to deny that's happening, then I question that person's integrity.

It's NOT just about who is speaking into a microphone and who their listeners are. It's about the words.

And if a single liberal Democrat nutjob kills a Republican tomorrow, we won't be able to say that doesn't count. So we either make sure we don't allow that language in our homes and blogs and chat rooms and emails or we allow it and play a role.

jhw22 said...

I meant the Kos diary should *not* be excused...

Broadway Carl said...

I understand your position, Jen, and agree with it, but we'll have do disagree on the Kos diary. I'm not excusing the rhetoric and believe that both sides need to tone it down, but context is everything, and I believe there is no comparison when coupled with the "Don't retreat, reload" connotation.

jhw22 said...

Let's put it this way, when we get down to the nitty gritty of context, or timing, or atmosphere, we are making excuses or justifications. We are putting conditions and asterisks. If we agree that the language is the problem, the words are the problem, then context and all the rest are less significant.

Put another way, we have always been in a country where violence has mattered. The tea party isn't the first to bring the vitriol. We should always accept that there is an element of violence bubbling under the surface. We have had assassinations and therefore, the use of imagery doesn't get to count or not count based on when the violence is bubbling over.

And I'd like to add that anyone who knows me (not you) knows that I am not nullifying or absolving the rhetoric of Palin and the like. Nor am I saying that all things are equal in intensity. All I have been trying to say about the Kos thing is that it is irrelevant how we want to explain or rationalize it away -- the right is using it. We either debate intent until no one is paying attention to the point or we concede that Kos' words can be used in the debate and we address it and move on. But if we refuse to accept that our excuses make us look like we're splitting hairs, then we won't get past this in the discussion.

Again, if we want the rhetoric toned down, we may need to consider sacrificing minor points for the good of the whole debate. We can have the best justifications in the world and that won't matter if the people who need to understand the implications think we aren't worth listning to because they think we are hypocrites.

Personally, I think we are way past the point where we should be saying "Yeah, but..." We can antagonize or we can deal with this shit. I am certain that by rationalizing ourselves out of examples like the Kos diary, we won't be getting anywhere.


Broadway Carl said...

Agreed, Jen. I'll also add that I also think it makes a difference who is voicing their opinion. My words may not mean much to the few readers who frequent this blog or engage in conversation with me, as opposed to people with a national audience on TV, radio and the like.

(I'm just excusing my future language. ;) ) Seriously, though, I understand your point of view and hope to abide by it. But all bets are off when I put my snark hat on.

jhw22 said...

One last attempt at articulating my view because so many seem to misunderstand (willfully or otherwise):

Each time we stop and say "but" we lose the momentum in working toward making a difference. I see more energy wasted out on the intertubes on the "we don't do it" argument. So the fuck what?! What is repeating that doing to solve anything?

OK, I am now officially done with this rant. I can only say this so many ways to try to say it in a way that will click with some. I am not asking for complete agreement, just for some to pause a moment and think a bit differently than they have been.


jhw22 said...

Carlos, when I had a friend message me and say he wished it had been a Republican, it was REALLY hard not to be snarky. It was hard not imaging certain Republicans. And that shamed me.

Thank YOU for at least pausing when I say something. Whether we reach the same conclusion is always irrelevant to me. I just appreciate the fact that you pause.


vera lynn said...

I want a like button for posts and comments please.

Anonymous said...

To add to Jen's comment--we should always take the high road in our public comments because when we don't we give the right an excuse not to look at their own language and behavior. The comment in the Daily Kos is an example of how the right is latching onto that comment to shift the focus from their own violent metaphors.

Desert Crone

vic c. said...

:| {= read, but no comment)