Wagging a Civil Tongue
© 2011 Ross Williams
Old news by this point. Six dead, 14 injured in Tucson. Among the dead is a federal judge; among the injured [and presumably permanently incapacitated] is a US Representative.
I know nothing about the federal judge, but chances are I would not have approved of his ability to match the law against the Constitution and decide which to give prominence. Most judges are a little too smugly enamored of their own “special” ability to bend words into pretzels to allow something as trivial as our nation’s Constitution to stand.
Just going with the odds, here, I’m afraid I’m going to have to quote a few famous people in response to the news of The Honorable’s death:
“I’ve never killed a man, but I’ve read many an obituary with a great deal of satisfaction.”
- Clarence Darrow
“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”
- Mark Twain
One fewer federal judge means one fewer person having the ability and authority to subvert the Constitution.
Yes, I know. I’m not being very sympathetic to the gentleman, or his family, in their week of tragedy. Well ... I’m not trying to be. This may be unfair; this judge may have been the only one in the last 90 years to have actually read the Constitution and understand what it means. ...but I doubt it. And besides:
“If you expect cheers when the crowd likes what you do, then you should expect them to boo when they don’t.”
- Every Disgruntled Sports Fan, Ever
And, well, Mr Judge? Boooooooo. Ride the pines.
As anyone could have predicted, both sides are lining up to blame each other for causing the shooter to pull the trigger. It was the constant bath of insufferably strident, closed-minded political discourse he was subjected to on a daily basis, they say. And as some people could have predicted, the most common target of blame is the Tea Party, and the new conservative everyone loves to hate [since the old one retired]: Sarah Palin.
Palin had put out, for the 2010 election, a map of the US with bulls eyes on it where conservatives had the best chances of unseating a liberal. Or something. It’s hardly a new concept, and versions of the same thing have been created every few election cycles since I’ve been voting – by both sides – when the mood of the electorate has shifted dramatically and Key Seats were being targeted for electoral change.
Liberals and democrats claiming that Palin is somehow out of bounds for doing in 2010 what they did as recently as 2006 need to see a doctor about their memory problem. There was no shortage of graphics for eight long years showing Dubya in a scope, and the only reason I can think of that some liberal nitwit didn’t actually do what was implied by it is because “Darth Cheney” would have succeeded him. Say what you like about Junior Bush [or what you dislike, as the case may be]; it may well be accurate. But in the final analysis, Bush the Younger was a basically inoffensive executive, neither strongly competent, nor strongly not, and well within the century-long trend-line of federalizing new authorities. His main flaw is being an inarticulate dweeb.
With bad table manners.
There’s no reason to believe the US would now be uninvolved in the wars we’re in, nor have responded to, um, certain events with any less statist tactics in our domestic policy if Gore had been elected. Note how quickly we’ve exited Iraq and Afghanistan, closed Gitmo, rescinded the Patriot Act and shut down the Freedom is Slavery Department of Homeland Security under the democratic Congress we got in 2006 and the democratic White House we acquired in 2008 – both elected expressly to do those very things.
Our National Savior isn’t the first grasping elected official to subscribe to the sentiment “Never let a crisis go to waste.” George Washington put down the Whiskey Rebellion with federalized militia; it started there. Whoever was president on 9/11 was going to do essentially the same thing Bush did ... to within decimal places. You’re lying to yourself if you don’t admit it.
So, no. Both the left and the right pointing fingers at each other over which side is more responsible for the take no prisoners political rhetoric is monumental hypocrisy. Clarence Page – who’s penned an anti-Palin polemic at least once a week since her name showed up south of Skagway – I’m looking at you, here, though I could as easily look at thousands of others. You calling for “civility” is a Mirror, Mirror moment.
Speaking of inheriting the wind ... the only example of any candidate from either side in the 2010 mud-terms calling for death or violence is Paul Kanjorski, the democrat Congressman from PA [diselected in 2010] who had this to say about republican Rick Scott, the winner of the FL governor’s election: “Put him against the wall and shoot him.”
Nice. Paul must really be a conservative, Tea Party republican, then, right? No democrat would say such a thing.
And not that it matters any, but parsing which side owns the political sentiments of the shooter is also a waste of time. ...though I’d have to suggest that for him to belong to the conservatives, being as he’s a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, is an extreme long shot. Just sayin’.
Those with cooler heads have taken a different approach: it wouldn’t have mattered if our nation’s political discourse was festooned with flowery fart gas, the guy is unhinged; anything could have been enough to set him off. Mark David Chapman believes Catcher in the Rye led him to kill John Lennon. Loughner read Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Tollbooth. ...and had it in for the AZ congressman for 4 years, outliving any familiarity he – or anyone else – had with Palin or the Tea Party.
Like Kaczynski, he regaled everyone with a litany of “evils” upon which the United States government is conspiring. Perpetrating 9/11 against itself is just the first. Not to imply anything about some of his lesser-known crackpottings, even if only because the government is involved in a helluva lotta things, but he – like every other conspiracy theorist – cites loads of circumstantial evidence as support for their favorite conspiracy. And, as always, it is the circumstantial support that, to many people with a flimsy grasp of reality, makes sense.
The US orchestrated 9/11 because it gave an excuse to invade a muslim country, to further erode civil liberties, et cetera.
Circumstantially ... all very correct. We invaded Afghanistan, and we Patriot Acted ourselves out of still more semblance of a free country. To people who can’t tell cause from side effect, it’s reasonable to conclude a unifying motivation.
Bush invaded Iraq [variously] to “finish Daddy’s war”, to demonstrate machismo after the defensive invasion of Afghanistan, to steal Iraqi oil... Except for the oil-stealing thing, the circumstantial evidence is either there or can be plausibly inferred [a commodity price doesn’t increase if there is a free supply of it – “steal oil” is a tinfoil hat insanity with nothing rational beneath it]. The only thing missing is a non-witless way of getting from Premise A to Conclusion B.
Other bits of circumstantial evidence cited by previous crackpots when doing their insanities:
• certain shortcomings of industrial society and technology – Ted Kaczynski
• excesses of industrial society’s government – Randy Weaver
• impending Armageddon brought on by the sins of the world – David Koresh
• paranoiac Waco siege – Timothy McVeigh
In each case, the superficial evidence is largely accurate. Modern industrial society has flaws. You’re right, Ted; stick a gold star on your forehead. Yes, Randy, there is excess of [and in] government. I’m with you on that. Reverend Koresh – or “god” if you prefer – the world is indeed a sinful place. Has been ever since you gave Adam and Eve the capacity to choose Knowledge over Instinct. Deal with it. Right, Tim, another in a long, long line of governmental overreactions. Crack a history book; that’s what government does.
In all but one of those examples, the loony tune is dead – obituaries that I read with great pleasure, I might add.
Self-serving political commentators who, by and large, particularly those on the “left”, have been uncivil and strident in their snively rhetoric, are backtracking like mad, covering their trail of mopey partisanship by largely denying they ever participated, and are now writing treatises on “the lessons of Tucson,” with civility heading the list ... as they plow all blame for their actions to the right.
Our National Savior, who called republicans and independents who lined up to vote against his party “the enemy”, is now claiming “We can do better”. No, dude; you can do better.
Lawmakers are calling for “toning down” the harangue we give each other on a daily basis. Some – democrats, as if it needs to be said – are actually claiming that we should, by law, be prevented from pointed political disagreement altogether, erasing one more clause from the highly redacted First Amendment. Unfortunately, the ADA doesn’t require handrails on Slippery Slopes.
Others – more democrats, as if it still needs to be said – are all in a panic to invent more gun control laws, as if taking away yet another of our rights is going to reduce the circumstantial evidence of all the conspiracy theories that hinge on the government taking away our rights.
Loughner is a nutjob, just like the many, many who spun conspiracy theories during Bush, and the many who spun conspiracy theories during Clinton, and the et cetera during yadda, and the blah during everyone else. He’s just one of the few who did anything about it. That is the only thing not always allowed in a free society. Spout if you’re a republican, spew if you’re a democrat, write angry incoherent manifestos if you’re batshit. Blame everyone else for your failed responsibilities if you’re in the media. All good.
Use fists, brickbats or bullets for punctuation? Not good.
The circumstances are there: the usurpations of power, the obliteration of rights, the elevation of a bureaucrat’s paranoias into policy. The government is doing all these things, and much much more. It is justified to distrust the government – indeed it’s naively delusional not to. But it’s psychotic to conclude conspiracy; it is criminal to do much more about it than vote against every bastard when given the opportunity, and to yell at them the rest of the time.
The lesson here is not civility or any similarly puerile, cotton candy sentiment, and it certainly isn’t to fan the flames of the whack-a-mole conspiracists by giving them one more excess to rail against. The lesson to be learned here is not for the citizen, nor even for the feckless, cowering media; it is for the asshats in our government – elected, appointed and career bureaucrat, all.
Dig it, bozos: if you don’t want the conspiratorial nitwits to step off into criminality, then don’t provide the circumstances that makes their conspiracy theory seem – to the pillocks they are – plausible. How many Americans have gone to their graves, and taken others with them, complaining about the erosion of their rights, the highhandedness of the IRS, the paranoias of one mob of bureaucrats or other?
Their ammunition, even before they dig out the Glock, is the erosion of rights, the highhandedness of the IRS, and bureaucratic paranoias imposed upon everyone. Do you actually need to be told this? They have a point, and often a good one, beneath their bonkers.
If you weren’t scanning children for naked images and groping nuns at airports, we’d be able to tell who was insane when they claimed the government was porno-scanning kids and feeling up old ladies. As it is, we don’t know who to nod in agreement with and who to get the butterfly net for.
But we know who to yell at, and who to vote against. And why. Do your job, please; the one you were given by the Constitution, not the one judges and legislators cut from whole cloth. Because when you don’t do your job, but instead do a job on us, we find it very hard to scrape up any sympathy when these things happen.