Thoughts on Politically Motivated Violence

Reflecting on the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and eighteen other people on Saturday morning in Tucson, Arizona, an attack that appears to have political motivations, I’m concerned that not only is the political discourse in the United States growing increasingly shrill, but that in the past several years it has also become increasingly violent. 

Threats of violence as well as cases of vandalism and assault have become more frequent, especially in the wake of significant legislative battles such as those over health care reform.  Sadly, we can look at some talking heads in the media, commentators whose motivations are rating (and thus, earning) driven more so than purely ideological, as well as politicians who stir the pot (Sarah “lock and load” Palin) to see who fans the flames of political passion.

There is nothing wrong with passion in politics.  It speaks to a robustness in our society.  But that robustness unravels when disagreement can no longer be had with civility.  All of us, regardless of our political stripes and partisan beliefs, need to condemn politically-motivated violence.

To that end, we need to remove the rhetoric of patriotism and Americanism from our vocabulary.  While we may be at odds about the role of our government and the best way to address various problems in society, none of us is more or less patriotic or American than the others.

Addendum January 14: While we don’t know the motivations of Representative Gifford’s shooter, whether they were political or not, I still stand by my statement that we need to condemn politically-motivated violence and bring the level of rhetoric down, especially casting others as unpatriotic.


0 thoughts on “Thoughts on Politically Motivated Violence

  1. so sad. and i totally agree; while someone does have to already have a screw loose to do something like this, political pundits using such aggressive and violent rhetoric as they have been lately need to realize that their angry words can contribute to this kind of insanity. shamelessly fueling passions for ratings has its consequences. if someone is squawking at you every night at how the country is headed in the wrong direction and we need to take it back by whatever means necessary it’s not too hard to imagine where nut cases get their ideas. I mean for god’s sake right up until this happened Sarah Palin had crosshairs over Rep. Giffords’ district on her website. I’m sure she didn’t mean that the woman needed to be shot, but it’s not hard to see how that could be misinterpreted by someone unstable

  2. Is it really growing, though? I think back on the time when Martin Luther King, Jr., and the rest of the movement were motivating change, and there were plenty of spectacular acts of violence then. Maybe it’s more of a cycle, and we’ve been fortunate enough for things to have been recently relatively still.

  3. When I first heard the news, I thought it was a random act of violence. But as more and more news came in, it sounds like she was targeted. Those talking heads on the radio and tv make a lot of money being divisive and inciting anger. I’m sure their next message will be those liberals are blaming us for this. Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand.

  4. You make a good point about how any act of violence should be condemned – even if we don’t agree with the victim’s viewpoints. That’s the whole point of democracy, I guess. What an important reminder.

  5. I see the same thing happening in a country in which I live and love. I have seen the rise of hate crimes, hate preached by the so called talking heads who take no responsibility for their motivation to hate and to act on that hatred. Sure they call it “disagreeing” with people but is it really. I fear for my country. I fear what it is doing to those who are trying to lead. And most of all I fear we are becoming a country who is moved by fear – fear of those who disagree or who are “different”. Sorry for the soapbox.

  6. @randaness –  To be honest, I haven’t pulled up any statistics as to whether political violence is increasing or not. To be certain, there has always been political violence. But as an example, during the recent healthcare reform debate there was a spate of vandalism at representatives’ local offices across the country. I don’t recall anytime in my adult life where there was vandalism and death threats in such a widespread and, it seems, organized effort.

  7. @randaness – Okay, some further reading found an answer to your question. The following two paragraphs are from a New York Times article:Modern America has endured such moments before. The intense ideological clashes of the 1960s, which centered on Communism and civil rights and Vietnam, were marked by a series of assassinations that changed the course of American history, carried out against a televised backdrop of urban riots and self-immolating war protesters. During the culture wars of the 1990s, fought over issues like gun rights and abortion, right-wing extremists killed 168 people in Oklahoma City and terrorized hundreds of others in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park and at abortion clinics in the South.What’s different about this moment is the emergence of a political culture — on blogs and Twitter and cable television — that so loudly and readily reinforces the dark visions of political extremists, often for profit or political gain. It wasn’t clear Saturday whether the alleged shooter in Tucson was motivated by any real political philosophy or by voices in his head, or perhaps by both. But it’s hard not to think he was at least partly influenced by a debate that often seems to conflate philosophical disagreement with some kind of political Armageddon.@jenessa1889 –  Very true that there will always be those who are imbalanced. How much do we want to light their fuse? Sigh…@Fatcat723 –  No worries about getting on the soapbox, Rob. I think an event like this provoke strong emotions in all of us.@stepaside_loser –  We can’t have an effective democracy if the rules of the game are anarchy.@ElusiveWords –  And isn’t is always the conservatives going on and on about the importance of personal responsibility?@slmret –  Thank you. It is my one wish for the new year.@ThePrince –  Yeah, I know what you mean. It makes me want to pound my fists on the table and shout, “What the hell is going on in America?!” at the top of my voice.@agmhkg –  If only it were the end…

  8. I agree wholeheartedly. I had a pit in my stomach all day yesterday over this story. I fear it will not be an isolated incident, and the political culture in this country is to blame. Sure, the talking heads on TV contribute, but so do many of the people actually serving in the government. Some of the rhetoric and behavior during sessions of congress, presidential addresses, etc., has been chipping away at the basic tenet of respect. Add to that anger, misinformation and incitement… does not add up to anything good.

  9. We were in the car when we heard the news. My mother’s first reaction was – “this is what they advocated and now they’ve got it.” She was referring to Hannity, O’Reilly, Colter and Palin. She sees the demonizing of individuals and of any that disagree as political sabotage to the democratic system. Civil discourse is important and a key component of our way of governance. When violence or the threat of violence impacts politicians’ decision to serve, we start to die as a nation. When people act on the premise that violence is the only and expedient way to be heard we have failed as a government and a nation. Where will we be when there is no dissent, no voice, and no debate? Anarchy or worse… lots worse. Sorry. Had that rant building since the elections and the announcement of the GOP that they were going to repeal the health care reform bill – which should have been called health insurance reform!

  10. @ElusiveWords – Conclusively, it was an assination attempt on the senator.  That was common knowledge as of last night, even on FOX “news.”  As far as blaming “you” ?  I don’t know.  ARe you in favor of the vitriolic and violent rhetoric spewed by the likes of Glenn Beck and the cross hairs put on people by Sarah Palin?  If you can come out and say you are opposed to that kind of thing, who would blame “you”? So far, Palin has made no statement denouncing what happened.  Only offering up prayers to this family and yet she put the cross hairs right on the woman they tried to assissinate.  Palin owes this country better then that.

  11. Posts like this show the Left already hard a work spinning their latest lie: that the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords was politically motivated and therefore is part of Sarah Palin’s master plan to conquer the universe.The shooter was a nutcase. Why he picked politicians for his victims is anyone’s guess.But the Left doesn’t care. They simply can’t let a good, juicy murder go to waste.

  12. Lot of the evil out there in the political arena are the gossips and the tall political tales that are spread through the internet. Whats worse is that people read these comments without any political intellectual will. They accept all they read which has given rise to not only the violence, but all those conspiracy fairytales as well. Not to mention these lone wolf shooters.

  13. hear hear! Very well said Chris. Loved the last paragraph. And to that end, can you imagine what the country would be doing today, if the murderer was a Muslim? OMG! I live in fear every day, and pray that I don’t hear of such violence again. What ever happened to ” live and let live?”

  14. Well said…Upon hearing the news last night I immediately thought of Radio Rowanda (think that’s what it was called) where the hate was spewed out appallingly without conscience, and sometimes when I hear people here like Fox news inciting that kind of irresponsible purposeful hate toward one group or a few “targeted” people, I can’t help but comparing the parallels.

  15. This is not new to this time or even the past century. If one studies our history closely, there has always been violence to some degree as part of the political scene. It generally comes down to fear of what will happen when there is change. We forget that none of us can predict future events or even how a change can affect people. We can only make guesses and your guess is no better or worse than mine. You may have more experience or knowledge in a particular field, i.e. health care, but that doesn’t mean you can know the future.

  16. @Diva_Jyoti_3 –  Reading Matt’s comment again, I think you misinterpreted him. He wrote, “Those talking heads on the radio and tv make a lot of money being divisive and inciting anger. I’m sure their next message will be those liberals are blaming us for this.” He was saying that the talking heads’ next message will be that they (the talking heads) are being blamed by the liberals for the shooting. Considering that he is a Canadian, I doubt that he identifies as a supporter of Fox News…

  17. @hesacontradiction –  @Ikwa – @Kissy_Cole –  I’m glad that this post resonated with you.@Paul_Partisan – Sadly, the news won’t do much but make you angry, frustrated, depressed, etc. At least, what passes as “news”.@awoolham –  That point didn’t cross my mind, but thank you for bringing it up. Of course, it is well documented that the violence in Rwanda was being actively incited by the media. Why we would think that that can’t happen here, or anywhere else, is beyond me.@ZSA_MD – There would be another invasion if the killer was a Muslim, no doubt! All those wonderful religious teachings like “Thou shalt not kill” seem to get thrown out the door…@LoBornlytesThoughtPalace –  So when someone who is Muslim commits a shooting, you’re saying that the right doesn’t immediately jump all over it, using it to support their own narrative? As for this being part of Sarah Palin’s plan to conquer the universe, you seem as prone to hyperbole as any of the talking heads on MSNBC or Fox News!@trunthepaige –  To say that the shooter had no political motivations is to ignore evidence that is quickly coming to light. Prosecutors have already indicated in court filings that they have found such evidence from the shooter’s home.When we use the language of violence, we should hardly be surprised when those with their screws loose take that language literally.

  18. this is why i’m never into politics. don’t understand why certain people would be so mindless to a point that he believes to end someone’s life is a way to bring down the opposition team. isn’t this just become an embarrassment to the political team he believes in?

  19. really? well, this whole thing is too twisted for me to understand and i don’t even need to know the reason why, to know that he’s in the wrong. period.

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