Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Toxic Political Environment

The shooting in Tuscon, Arizona in which a congresswoman was targeted and shot and six citizens lost their lives is generating the expected hyperbole about vitriolic political speech and the loose gun laws in the United States. And, of course, everyone needs to calm down before any conclusions are drawn.

Clearly, politics was at issue in this tragedy, otherwise the crazed gunman would have simply walked into a supermarket or a school or a restaurant or a business and opened fire. However, the intense political environment of the past decade or so is no more at direct fault for this shooting than was Ozzy Osbourne responsible for the suicide of a depressed teen who listened to his song "Suicide Solution" or were the violent videos of Marylin Manson and violent video games responsible for the Columbine shootings. There is no way to prove the one negative influence that drove mentally unstable people over the edge.

However, language does matter, and nothing good can come from the intense animosity in American politics these days. We should be disturbed and challenge public figures like Sharon Angle who frivolously warn that "people are going to choose 2nd amendment solutions." We should not forget that Timothy McVeigh was not mentally unstable. He was just incredibly angry at the government. Thus, the anti-government positions of too many people these days is not good for the country. The talk of tyranny and "watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots" has serious ramifications. And language matters to people. It influences people. It enrages people like McVeigh - sometimes leading them to act. And it has the potential to drive mentally unstable people over the edge. We should not forget the Dept of Homeland Security report that warned of the increasing threat from domestic anti-government groups. That warning was valid and real.

Certainly, there is no political discussion in America that requires such vitriol. And we will all benefit from stepping back our political rhetoric.

13 comments:

abellia said...

You are correct. Period.

I've heard lots of right-wing apologists saying that their words don't cause people to behave in any particular way. How disingenuous. They wouldn't say the things that they do unless they thought that they would cause changes in behavior.

Most who talk of taking up arms and such aren't being literal, but some listeners don't know any better. The speakers know that their words matter. They need to take some responsibility - perhaps not for this shooting - but for the meanness and abject anger that their words bring out in those that are easily influenced.

steven said...

You see nothing wrong with some people using the government as a blunt instrument to make other people do what they want them to do. You're as blind as a religious fundamentalist, Michael.

It's no wonder the political environment is so toxic. Look for it to get worse, until busybodies can learn to mind their own damn business.

mazenko said...

Steven, you have a lot of anger for reasons that baffle me, and you too often speak in ideological generalities. What exactly is wrong with my commentary this time? Specifically.

steven said...

Of course you're baffled, Michael. No surprise there. After all, you're a member of the parasitic class, which derives it's livelihood from the presence of a powerfull state that has the ability to make people live their lives according to values that enrich you and yours. So it makes sense that you would oppose anything that threatens your cozy existence. It would be one thing if you restricted your objection to violence directed against innocent people. But I don't think that's the case. Am I wrong about that?

steven said...

If I'm wrong, Michael, then I'll stand corrected. But I doubt that I am.

mazenko said...

Some really strong words there, Steven. More so than usual, you challenge what I pragmatically - studying history as I have - see as simply an ordered and civilized society. Though, I concede the problems of an overreaching government, and I do tend to be more libertarian than you acknowledge.

Additionally, I tend to assume a certain demographic of people who access my blog, so I'm wondering: How are you not a member of the parasitic class? How do you manage to avoid benefiting from the cozy existence resulting from the reasonably stable society provided in most Western democratic countries these days?

You make some heavy assumptions about what I support, simply by my support of a constitutional republic? Where is it that I support "violence against innocent people" and you manage not to? Specifically, what violence are we talking about? Hopefully, you have more than the incarceration of people like Wesley Snipes who live comfortably in the US, but refuse to support the cost of that comfort by evading taxes. I could comment on whether you're wrong if you provide a few more specifics.

steven said...

Michael, you've mentioned that you tend to be libertarian on several occasions, but I've not seen any evidence of that. For one thing, a libertarian, if they really are a libertarian, believes that the state may not rightfully do anything that it would not be right for an individual to do on their own. In other words, libertarians believe that the state should be subject to the same rules of civil conduct that individuals are subjected to. For example: If you were teaching your children at home and I, your neighbor, disagreed with what you were or were not teaching your own children, and used force or the threat of force to compel you to teach or not teach your own children what I thought was appropriate, you would think that I had overstepped my bounds. Right? So why would you think that it's right for the state to do the same thing? I'm sorry, but if you think that it's right for the state to use or threaten force to compel you to teach your own children what it thinks is appropriate, then you're not a libertarian in any way, shape or form.

mazenko said...

Maybe you haven't been reading lately, but I do the question the issue of compulsory education. In fact, I have personal experience with homeschooling ... and I am quite a fan of the un-schooling movement as well. It's about whatever works, in my opinion.

But what about the other question. How do you live in a way that you aren't the parasitic class, living off the stable society created by others who were forced under threat of violence to pay for roads, schools, and police/fire protection? Do you avoid these services? Do you not live in Western style society? Do you follow Thoreau's lead and refuse to pay the taxes? Do you live "off the grid?" Or is your higher ground purely philosophical? Specifically, where do I "support violence"? Any specifics about how you avoid the "cozy comfort" that I apparently pursue with violence?

steven said...

Michael, let's say that you and your neighbors have some kid down the block mowing your lawns every two weeks or so during the summer, and you're all just fine with that. Now the government comes along and says that you and your neighbors are now being required to use their services to mow your lawns every week, and at the price the government (not you and your neighbors) feel is appropriate for the services rendered. You object, because not only are you and your neighbors happy with the previous arrangement, but you feel that having your lawn mowed every week would not be good for the lawn. But you don't have a choice in the matter because the government has people that will use force against you if you resist.

If you somehow are able to evade paying for services that you have not asked for and don't even want, does that make you a parasite because you received the services and didn't pay for them?

mazenko said...

Not real sure I follow this ambiguous hypothetical, other than that you claim you are not a "parasite" because you avoid paying for city services that you didn't ask for. Of course, I don't see you as any more a parasite than I am because I think the word choice is a bit excessive, if not ridiculous. I assume you benefit from a stable, civilized society, but then complain because you didn't ask for it and don't want to pay for it. I still don't see grounds for the parasite remark - and I don't concede the moral high ground you take.

steven said...

Just to clarify, Michael, when I said parasitic class I was referring to people whose livelihood was dependent on public funding (including public education employees).

And I don't believe that we don't need a coercive state to have a stable, civilized society. In fact, I believe that a coercive state stands in the way of having a stable, civilized society. Which is why our political environment is bad now and getting worse all the time.

mazenko said...

Ouch! Still don't see you as above it ... but OK. Ultimately, I have been intrigued by some of the writings you've mentioned before about the society you envisioned and ways in which it has, or could, work. But I still live in the real world, and I don't think you really do. Though I admire the utopian ideal of all living in harmony without a tax base. We still just disagree.

steven said...

Ok, Michael. But I have to say that I don't see things turning out very well in the fairly near future for this constitutional republic that you advocate. The government will keep spending until the whole enterprise comes tumbling down, because that's where their power and prestige comes from, and then we will have widespread civil unrest and violence. All because some people just can't let other people live their own lives without trying to impose their various schemes that they (wrongly) think will cure all the ills of society (and just like the religious fundamentalists who think that if their rules were imposed on society then all would be well). This is the world that is being created for our children. They will be the ones that have to pick up the pieces caused by our society's stupidity. That's what really makes me angry about the whole mess.

Just as our arrogant and violent foreign policy has caused so many people around the world to hate our guts, and caused some to even want to attack us, our domestic policy has caused many here to mistrust and despise the government (and they're right to do so).