This weekend's horrific Arizona shooting is forcing us to examine how divisive and dangerous the political discourse in this country has become. But instead of standing together in solidarity in the face of a such a tragedy, people on all sides of the political spectrum are pointing fingers at the likes of Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, opponents of Obamacare, and the media in a desperate effort to assign blame.
The latest charge, this one coming from the right, is that immediately following the shooting, a liberal smear machine was kicked into high gear determined to destroy conservatives, free speech, and the Second Amendment. Furthermore, the pundits who warned of this treacherous machine are elated to report that it has "backfired" now that it has come out that the gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, was a "left-wing, pot-smoking liberal" -- and not a conservative after all.
Now, I ask you: How many things can you find wrong with this particular take on the situation?
First, this fascination with assigning a political typology -- Democrat or Republican -- to a person as mentally ill as Loughner is not only unproductive, it's entirely missing the point. Who cares whether Loughner read Mein Kampf or had long hair? He killed six people, wounded several others, and is severely ill. Does knowing he belonged to a political party that is not your own help anyone rest easy at the end of the day?
Second, the conservatives' charge of a liberal smear machine that is out to steamroll conservatives, free speech, and the Second Amendment is a blatant, fear-mongering overreaction. It's difficult to separate the voices of reason from the more incendiary accusations that have arisen from the tragedy (for example, that Sarah Palin single-handedly caused it), but in this case? It's worth a try.
Yes, there are liberals (and, guess what, non-liberals, too!) calling for 1) a reigning in of the violent, incendiary rhetoric that has pervaded our political discourse of late and 2) tougher gun laws that would, say, prevent a mentally ill person from buying a gun. But this isn't a case of one particular political party out to destroy the Constitution and silence their political opponents forever. It's people on all sides of the spectrum who are sad and scared trying to find ways -- legally -- to make the world less sad and scary. But all this talk of smearing is drowning out discussion of the real issues at stake.
And while we're on the subject, just what is so "liberal" about not only wanting to be safe but wanting the people who serve in public service to be safe? I assume this is something conservatives want, too?
Do you think there is a liberal smear machine afoot?
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