I should go to bed. Most nights I’m crashed by now. But I’m trying to sort of my state of mind re: Gabrielle Giffords and what’s happened to our country. This will be very disjointed…
Some of my reaction to all of this comes from being a recipient of multiple death threats. I know, I know–the orders of magnitude aren’t close, and the threats I received weren’t especially serious. But I can empathize, slightly, with the combined fear (duh), anger (who the fuck do these people think they are), and brazenness (well, if you’re gonna do it, just do it) that come from that experience. A lot of things are less scary after this has happened; unfortunately, a lot of things seem less scary than they probably should.
I’ve been struggling all day with the tendency among many (on Facebook, on the blogs, in the mainstream press) to equate left and right rhetoric’s levels of violence and hate. A lot of people I otherwise trust and respect have made good cases that “both sides” are in it. And yes, both sides bear some responsibility for us living in a time when somebody thinks the best solution to his problems is to assassinate a member of Congress, or stockpile gigantic military-grade weapons caches, or…. It’s not equal; it’s just isn’t. The viciousness of the right simply runs deeper and wider. That doesn’t get the left off the hook.
But what’s keeping me awake now is wondering why it’s even worth doing that scorekeeping. At the end of the day, whether there’s a foil for Sarah Palin among liberals, or whether SarahPAC’s Crosshairs ad is worse than the DNCC’s Bullseye map, is not only unanswerable but leaves the bigger problem (to me, as of this second) unaddressed.
Who are the people who are really listening to them? Who’s really taking Glenn Beck seriously? I know people do; what scares me more is that I probably talk to them every day without even knowing it. Who are the people who are filling the blogs’ comment sections with the kinds of horrific nastiness that seems to come so easily to them? I can be sarcastic and snarky, and hyperbolic and lots of other things. But it would never even cross my mind to say in a public forum (as I saw earlier today) that Gabrielle Giffords deserved to die because she’s a fucking Jew, or that the entire mainstream media is covering up the fact that this was all Barack Obama’s idea–a plot to discredit Sarah Palin. What?
I got an e-mail petition link earlier tonight from MoveOn calling for politicians and media to ramp down their violent rhetoric and willingness to propagate it. I still haven’t signed it yet, although I’m sure I will. Why haven’t I signed it? Because I’m not convinced it’ll do much.
Let’s put it this way. I published an op-ed in the Philly Inquirer in Jan 2005 about atttending GWBush’s second inauguration. It was an awful day–not just because GWB had won re-election, but because the beginnings of everything we’re seeing right now were in place then. At least it was the first time I was palpably confronted by them. After that op-ed published, I got anonymous death threats mailed to my house; three showed up on the same day. The immediate fear last about 10 minutes; I went to the cops; and then I got furious. I called the Inquirer editor I’d worked with to tell him I wanted to write about the death threats, and he discouraged me, saying, “You kicked the rock once and the crazies poked their heads out. Kick it again, there’s a good chance they’ll really come out this time.”
His not-very-sensitive use of the term “crazies” notwithstanding, my fear is that if the talk-ocracy simply papers over the current state of affairs, it might be too late. The rock may have been kicked too hard this time. As my earlier post from today makes very clear, Jared Loughren ain’t the only one out there. How do we fix that? More tax breaks for rich people? Fighting wars of aggression all around the world? Fighting about where Barack Obama was born?
Anybody who feels like ending on a more hopeful note, feel free…