By Bill Britton
As reported, Sarah Palin’s PAC had a number of candidates under crosshair images before the fall election. It is this type of irresponsible and inflammatory politicizing that can push some over the edge. Sure, it’s freedom of speech, but that rings hollow when seven people are gunned down. What cannot be denied is the link between inflammatory statements in general and the climate of anger that is running rampant in this country. Palin’s PAC website serves as a potent example.
Some claim that all segments of the political spectrum make inflammatory statements, but that is only partly true. The political Right has elevated it to an art form, which can be heard on talk radio and on Fox News daily. When travelling, I scan radio stations out of curiosity. The one major exception to inflammatory language is NPR, which can be left-leaning but there is no spewing of vitriol as is found on the Right. I don’t believe that anyone on the Left can hold a candle to the statements issued by a Palin, a Bachmann, or an Engle, which have been seen to spill over into their followers’ rally signs. And to equate Olbermann with Limbaugh, for example, is ridiculous. Olbermann can be both caustic and sarcastic, but Limbaugh is malicious to the core.
Some might read into this that I am in favor of censorship. But any “policing of words” should be undertaken by the politicos and their talking heads themselves by exercising self-restraint. There is nothing weak about a public discourse grounded in civility. But to use guns as a metaphor for political action can provide negative reinforcement to a troubled mind and is a total distortion of the Second Amendment.
I spent 4 years in the Marines. The assumption on the part of people I don’t know is that I am a Right-winger. Two examples: When I moved to Florida, a neighbor who saw the Marine decal on my car began sending me links to what were blatant, hateful lies about Democrats. Another time, while at the gun range, a fellow shooter looked at my Marine cap and said, “I bet you’d rather be shooting at a silhouette of Obama.” My responses were sharp, but given their assumptions, were justified.
I think about anger in America and try to explore its roots, and at the end of the day, it all comes down to personal economics—the alienation of the 17% who are unemployed or have given up looking. They provide the tinder for angry public discourse. The gap between the common good and the corporate conscience grows wider each day. In other words, corporate profits trump “what is good for America.” Many major U.S. corporations now have workforces dominated by foreigners. Whose interests do they serve? And as we have seen, Wall Street churns money for the benefit of the few and the despair of many.
A corporate oligarchy now rules America and has no interest in bettering the plight of the disappearing line worker or the small business owner. I suspect that the new Tea Party members in Congress will be gobbled up by the system and will have only a marginal impact on the juggernaut of special interests that, in actuality, run this country and, incidentally, are running it into the ground.
Government and business should be addressing a number of major issues in this country, e.g.: (1) infrastructure, e.g., roads and bridges, railroads, the electrical grid; (2) structural unemployment, i.e., retraining of the workforce to replace jobs that are never coming back; (3) basics in education (including much-diminished humanities curricula); (4) and admit that democracy isn’t for everyone and let foreign belligerents fight their own battles (and in tandem, reduce military expenditures substantially). I see only token progress, if at all, on any of these issues. Good luck, America.