Disasters that come from the mouth

The guy with the gun pulled the trigger in Tucson. But the constant vitriol of hate and demonization by political “leaders” and others helped set the stage.

In 1998, there was a flurry of anti-gay hate speech. Religious groups, sports figures and politicians fell over each other in their eagerness to get in front of a camera and denounce homosexuals, all because President Clinton had appointed James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg. Hormel’s sin was being gay.

In June of that year, Trent Lott, then Senate Majority Leader, happily pandered to his base by upping the volume of venom considerably, very publicly comparing gays to alcoholics, sex addicts and kleptomaniacs, characterizing gays as sinners and a “problem to be solved.”

A few months later, while Lott and others continued to spew their bile, Matthew Shepard was targeted, tortured and killed by two men in Wyoming specifically because he was gay.

The connection between Lott’s words and Shepard’s death was noted by many. Playwright Tony Kushner wrote a scathing article titled  Matthew’s Passion, linking the two. Newspapers all over the country decried the vicious talk that had contributed to the hate killing.

Lott and other politicians quickly went into damage control. They had nothing to do with it, they said. Two crazies in Wyoming, they said. They issued condolences to the families and condemnations of the crime. But it didn’t wash. They were forced to tone down the rhetoric, though only a little bit and only for a while.

This is exactly what Speaker John Boehner, Senator Mitch McConnell, and Sarah Palin are doing right now over the Tucson shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and six others. A crazy in Arizona, they’re saying. They had nothing to do with it, they insist. It’s not their fault, they whine.

For two years, Boehner, McConnell, Palin and their toadies Beck, Limbaugh, et. al, have been screaming into cameras and microphone, demonizing anyone who had anything to do with the new health care law. Their vitriol went on for so long and was so successful it resulted turning many people against a law that would only bring them benefit.

Giffords’ sin was to vote for the bill. For that she was placed in crosshairs on Palin’s Tea Party hit-list map during the recent elections, her office was firebombed and her life was threatened. Obviously the threat turned out not to be empty.

Boehner et al may not have pulled the trigger in Tucson Saturday. But when those who have easy access to the public pulpit, when those in authority publicly and repeatedly demonize those who disagree with them, when public discourse has deteriorated so much that politicians show videos of themselves shooting at laws they don’t like and calling for “second amendment solutions” to people and laws don’t like, they become accessories to the crime.

There is always someone out there willing to pull a trigger. All they need is to be pointed at a target.

Boehner and McConnell, Beck and Limbaugh, and particularly you, Palin – all of you have the blood of Tucson on your hands.


[The title of this post is a quote from a New Yorker article, apparently a literal translation from the Chinese about reluctance to speak publicly of problems. However, the moment I read it I was reminded of the Tucson shootings and the outpouring of political denial now under way.]

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