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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Since there was a Part 1 it was inevitable that there’d be a Part 2. But I think I’ll stop here unless something else really interesting comes up.

Today’s blog is inspired by two tweets retweeted to me (ages ago, now) by my friend @Halfrican_One:

@m_clem Faisal Shahzad’s politics are no less incoherent than Jared Lee Loughner’s. But one is a “Muslim terrorist”, the other “just a wacko”.

@andishehnouraee Let’s not generalize about large groups of people based on Jared Lee Loughner’s actions, unless it turns out he’s Muslim.

I chuckled a little at the second one, but it was one of those “this is cleverly worded but I am sad that it’s true” chuckles.

That is, it is, as I discussed last week, the case that everyone immediately wanted to link Loughner to right-wing anti-government rhetoric, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party. But all of those people were equally quick to push back on that link (blood libel, anyone?). And the Right is culturally powerful enough that it worked. So it came to be that it was insisted that he wasn’t representative of any group, just a lone guy who went off the deep end.

But as these tweets point to what would have happened if it had been a different group he’d been connected to, however tenuously. If he were Muslim, or had been raised Muslim, or even had a Muslim-sounding name, that would have been the immediate explanation. And if he were exactly as crazy as he is, citing exactly the same mishmash of sources, it would still be the explanation.

Because–at least since 9/11, though maybe before; who can remember now?–Muslims automatically fall into that suspicious category in the American imaginary. There’s a sense in the general public that they can never quite be real, true citizens, that their loyalties are always divided, because Islam is inimical to America. It’s bullshit, of course, but that seems to be what people believe.

So, again, if nothing else good comes out of Tucson, it seems to be a moment to look hard at ourselves. Jared Lee Loughner is as American as apple pie because the shooting spree is as American as apple pie. In some sense, Nidal Hasan is utterly American, too, for all he really did have specifically Muslim-extremist connections, because he used our time-honored way of mass-killing. It’s Columbine. It’s the Beltway sniper. It’s Virginia Tech and, close to home for me, it’s Lindhurst High School.

Fewer guns with fewer bullets in them would be an improvement. So would a better mental health system. But as long as this is the standard way of doing rage in this country, any pissed off crazy person is going to think the best thing to do is get their hands on guns and bullets and go shooting.

Let’s start there.

Yeah, I’m blogging about Tucson. Me and everyone else, right?

It’s interesting and telling that a soon as the Tucson shootings happened the general consensus was to decry the heatedness of contemporary political rhetoric. This was most apparent on the Left, and in the mainstream media—which, while not “Left” in any real sense, is somewhat to the left of the Right on most things that aren’t support of capitalism—but some Righty folks got in on it too, though I can’t find any trace of it now so maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part.

Because, as much as war imagery is common—the Right was surely quick to point out times the Left had used it too—even to the conflation of the two as in that famous Clausewitz quote that “war is politics by other means”–which gets misquoted just as often in reverse–it does seem to have reached a new level sometime in the last few years.

Much has been made of the Palin “target” diagram (since removed from her site despite insistence that they weren’t supposed to look like crosshairs), but it’s only the tip of this iceberg.

After all, “liberal hunting permit” got me 80,000 results on Google Images this morning. It even comes in flavors: this one or this one or this one or this one. Under this metaphor, people on the Left side of the political spectrum are no better than animals, and they’re to be shot on sight. The Most Dangerous Game, anyone? Or, you know, The Pest (which, John Leguizamo’s character was obnoxious enough in that thing to make it a more sympathetic proposition).

Of course, liberals aren’t the only thing people want to hunt. Illegal immigrants are popular. Terrorists, too.

Sometimes, the Left and terrorists are even conflated.

But you know what I didn’t find a permit to hunt? Conservatives. The only remotely righty thing I found that people had made a “hunting permit” sticker for was C.E.O.s (couldn’t find a good linkable image, but it’s out there).

People on the Left were angry about Bush. Really, really angry. They called him a war criminal, a terrorist, compared him to Hitler. The images are less findable now that he’s out of office, but they can be dredged up if you look. What they didn’t do was advocate shooting people like him on sight. That’s new. And it’s troubling.

And even if it doesn’t turn out to have had anything to do with Jared Lee Loughner’s shooting rampage (which it looks like it didn’t), we should still take this opportunity to look hard at this development in political rhetoric. ‘cause it’s scary.