Sunday, January 16, 2011


I've been extremely uncomfortable with our side's rhetoric over the past week. I detest Sarah Palin and the tea party/talk radio/Fox News right, and I agree that the ratcheting up of angry rhetoric on the right is bad for America, but I simply don't agree that that rhetoric must have been a contributing factor in what happened in Tucson eight days ago -- every day it seems to become more and more obvious that Jared Loughner was a paranoid schizophrenic whose main focus was on "ideas" that were more mataphysical than political, and whose diseased brain, in any case, made a hash of everything he took in.

I've also been extremely uncomfortable with another implication of our side's rhetoric -- namely, that we're just categorically never the people who are dangerous in this political climate. You can believe that there's more danger to the country emanating from one side than from the other without believing that one side is immune to violent impulses. That's what I think. I think the right is more dangerous than the left right now. I just don't believe that left-wingers are incapable of being dangerous. Clay Duke, who shot up a Florida school board, did read and endorse lefty Web sites. Someone who backed the Democrats' health care bill did bite off part of a right-winger's finger (yes, apparently in response to the right-winger's own aggression, but still). We aren't just passive little lambs 100% of the time. And when we insist, or imply, that we are, we're just setting a standard that can't possibly be met by every last one of us.

Like Eric Fuller, a Tucson shooting victim who attended a televised town hall meeting yesterday:

... That's where the atmosphere turned tense. When Tucson Tea Party founder Trent Humphries rose to suggest that any conversation about gun control should be put off until after the funerals for all the victims, witnesses say Fuller became agitated. Two told KGUN9 News that finally, Fuller took a picture of Humphries, and said, "You're dead."

When State Rep. Terri Proud (R-Tucson) rose to explain and clarify current and proposed gun legislation in the state, several people groaned or booed her. One of those booing, according to several witnesses, was Fuller. Witnesses sitting near Fuller told KGUN9 News that Fuller was making them feel very uncomfortable.

The event wrapped up a short time later. Deputies then escorted Fuller from the room. As he was being led off, Fuller shouted loudly to the room at large. Several witnesses said that what they thought they heard him shout was, "You're all whores!"

... A Pima County Sheriff's spokesman told KGUN9 News that the department has charged Fuller with one count of threats and intimidation, and said they plan to charge him with at least one count of disorderly conduct. Humphries told KGUN9 News that he does plan to press those charges....

I know -- he was a victim of last week's violence. I know -- he didn't actually hurt anyone yesterday. (He has been involuntarily committed, however.) But he's been blaming right-wing pols in recent days -- and now this. We actually did get this guy cranked up. There's no way around that fact.

I don't want to end this post with a bland admonition that everyone, left and right, should just tone it down and never point fingers at anyone for anything. I don't have a problem with accusing prominent right-wingers of courting violence when, say, Byron Williams, a fan of right-wing cable news programming, seeks to attack the Tides Foundation, a group obseesively targeted by Glenn Beck. But blame of this kind has to fit the facts. In Jared Loughner's case, all evidence suggests that it doesn't.

And when our outrage at right-wingers does fit the facts, we need to add that people on our side need to respond without violence, without threats, and without intimidation. Even if we believe that our side doesn't have very many people who are dangerous, even if we know our side has far fewer guns, we need to make that point -- because it only takes one. And I'm glad that one wasn't Eric Fuller.

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