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Wit and Wisdom

A Deadly Legacy

It’s important not to overreact to the terrible shooting in Tucson: not make members of Congress less accessible to their constituents, not blame a political movement for a deranged act.  In any case, the first order of business is to feel for the victims and their families.

But once the shock has worn off, it will be reasonable to consider the line of inquiry already being pursued by some liberals:  namely, that the shooting of Representative Gifford and 18 others at a public gathering was a deadly manifestation of violent rhetoric on the Right.  

America is a nation birthed and bathed in violence.  Settled by Europeans in the age of firearms, until relatively recently boasting a wild frontier, and hostile to the kind of deference to and centralization of authority that has allowed other Western governments to better control the instruments and sentiments of deadly force, the United States has frequently suffered the consequences of this particular expression of its freedom.

While the extreme Left has known sporadic episodes of political violence (John Brown’s pre-Civil War insurrection, anarchists of the early 20th Century, revolutionaries of the 1960s), it is the extreme Right-- defending the founding credo-- that has consistently relied on personal deadly force to make its points.

After the Oklahoma City federal building explosion in 1995-- the victims of which included children in a day care center-- the leaders of the newly ascendant radical Republicans in Congress ceased to refer to themselves proudly as “bomb throwers.”  With one of the mortal victims of the Tucson rampage being a nine-year-old girl, perhaps the current leaders of the Right will use the most recent tragedy as an opportunity to draw their inspiration from a less violent part of our nation’s legacy.

14 Comments to A Deadly Legacy:

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Brian Roberts on Sunday, January 9, 2011 11:42 AM
I don't know why this guy did this. I am inclined to believe it was politically motivated, and as you eloqquently wrote, "a deadly manifestation of violent rhetoric on the Right." However, I hesitate to make that case, because it usually generates a bunch more noise in the media, which tends to end up with an unhelpful message: there are nuts on both sides and there's nothing you can do. I think it is better to say we should tone done the violent rhetoric going forward in order to reduce the chances of violence. I thought Olbermann said it pretty well. Here's the link if you haven't seen it (but I'll bet you have!) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40981503/ns/msnbc_tv-countdown_with_keith_olberman
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William Rice on Sunday, January 9, 2011 12:06 PM
Thanks for your comment, Brian. I agree with you and Keith Olbermannn about the need to moderate the tone of our political discourse. But I guess my larger point was to recognize how deep our nation's traditional reliance on violence has been. And to consider starting some more peaceful traditions.
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