Polarization and Hate Speech from Elected Officials, Talking Heads, and Each and Every Citizen Impacts Each and Every One of Us

I write this for myself as much as for my friends who are readers and wondering what my take as a Tucsonan is on the horrors of yesterday.

My heart aches.  My eyes tear up on and off throughout the day.  Could I have done more to decrease the culture of hate and violence that has torn our nation apart and killed members of my community? I have to say that, “Yes, I could have done more.”

No, no one killed was a personal friend of mine, but being an occasional participant in local political gatherings, being one of Gabby’s District 8 constituents, and being an activist with a peace group who has made many trips to D.C. to participate in peace messaging to House and Senate members and office staff, I had met and interacted with several of the injured and killed.

After I returned from Indiana in 2007,  where I cared for my mother during the last months of her 92 year long life, I greatly decreased the frequency of my activist activities, that had began in 2003 and continued through early 2007, for several reasons.

1)  I was tired, exhausted.
2)  I had to find a job to pay off the significant debt I incurred caring for my mother because there is no good end of life health care in the U.S.
3) The escalation of violence in Tucson against peace activists by “counter demonstrators” continued during my absence and also during that time the Tucson Police Dept had stopped responding to requests for help from peace demonstrators outside weekly protests in front of a recruiting center when assaults by “counter demonstrators” occurred.  These “counter demonstrators dressed in military uniformed and had personally threatened me previously.  I was somewhat relieved when I found out I had to work on the morning when this vigil is held and this shames me.
4) I set off on a path to increase my inner peace and personal health.
5) I decided to focus on national level actions that spoke to me.
6) I selfishly felt the likelihood of personal injury to myself was much greater in Arizona than personal injury in the U.S. Capitol activism.

Had I been more vocal, and more articulate,  about the growing undercurrent in the atmosphere of hate and violence here in Tucson, that IS a real and palpable presence by the way, could I have nudged a thing or occurrence here or there that might have somehow changed something?   I absolutely believe that it is no accident that this horrible attempted assassination, and the related murders and shootings, which so many on the left were afraid would happen, happened in Tucson.  Many people in Tucson and across the country had voiced concern about  just such a thing happening after images and speech suggesting violence became routine parts of political campaigns.  Many feel that this horror happened here in the rabidly out of control Fundamentalist Mormon & Christian and Republican controlled state of Arizona because the atmosphere here helped a very disturbed young man feel it was acceptable to attempt to assassinate a Congresswoman.

No, I don’t feel personally responsible for any one thing, but I do feel there is some possibility that I could have done something more to help change the atmosphere; I know we all, each and every one of us, have impact on others far beyond what we will ever know.  My favorite movie is It’s a Wonderful Life, not only because I’m a sap, but because this story so beautifully shows the inadvertent and indirect, but significant, impact we not only have on those we love or interact with on a daily basis, but on those whose lives only tangentially brush our lives.

I am upset that health care in Arizona has devolved to such a degree that individuals who are known to be potentially violent and dangerous are not getting needed mental health care and are able to buy weaponry and carry out murders and assassination attempts.

I am grateful that the anti-education machine in the AZ government has been unable to completely strip the University of Arizona and the University Medical Center of funding for the only Trauma Center in Southern Arizona.  Without this, many more people, including Gabby would have probably died.

I am sickened that guns can be carried and concealed practically anywhere in the State of Arizona.  I can’t imagine what the upcoming redistricting in Arizona will do to the remaining and already irrationally fragmented political districts.  The ability of liberal areas to have any meaningful self-governance have been politically silenced in the state as is evidenced by Tucson and other liberal Arizona enclaves division in egregious gerrymandering that will probably only get worse this year.

I am quite upset by statements made by various elected officials in Arizona who have called for “moving on”  from this tragedy within hours of the shooting, by Senator Kyl’s statement that condemns Sheriff Dupnik rather than a statement decrying the violence.  This reversion to political speak within hours of a mass murder in their jurisdictions unfortunately illustrates the disconnect these officials have from the real world.  These leaders should apologize, at the very least, for such callous behavior when a city, state, and indeed, a nation are in mourning.  I am upset that Boehner has chosen to focus on protecting House Members and their staff when half the dead were simple innocent constituent civilians–we don’t just need to increase security.  We need to increase civility.

Jesse Kelly’s ad on the Pima County Republican website in early June 2010

I unfortunately continue to be outraged by folks on the political right who say the left wanted this to happen for some perverse reason.  By we progressives saying we were afraid something like this would happen when gunsights or target icons were placed over congressional districts in campaign materials and websites, or when Gabby’s opponent had an automatic weapon shooting fest to remove Gabby from office does not mean that we wanted it to happen.  As I think you can see by this ad image, the implications of this vitriolic language was over the top and could have even unconsciously influenced the gunman.

The best thing the political right and or left can do right now is to apologize for anything they may have said or done,  or that was said or done on their behalf, that in any way helped to create an atmosphere that allowed or incited this mass shooting and murder to happen.

We all have to tone it down.  But to deny responsibility is childish.  We all create our world.  We must all take responsibility for it.  The people who were killed or injured were human, no more, no less.

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