In the aftermath of this past weekend's tragedy in Arizona, many people have been pointing fingers at our political leaders over their incidiary language and "toxic rhetoric." Because our political spectacle has become a proper fiasco, and gotten to a point where violent language is not only acceptable, but ubiquitous, we now find ourselves in a place where we do not know whether or not one person's violent actions have been influenced by the language they hear from our leaders. That is a truly scary thought.

People have specifically focused on Sarah Palin's map, featured on her website with cross hairs placed over the districts of Democratic congress members who voted for health care reform, Ms. Giffords included. When Palin posted the image back in March, she included the message: "Commonsense Conservatives and lovers of America: Don't retreat, instead RELOAD!" It is indeed a terrorizing image, one that induces fear and repulsion at the sight of it. It is insolent, small-minded, and exactly what is wrong with our status quo.

Sarah Palin is a lost cause. But whether she is culpable for the shootings in Arizona is inscrutable; it's a bit unfair to say that she is directly responsible for such a deliberate attack. However, she IS a central figure in our mainstream political circus, and her words have a significant resonance with those who hear them, as do the words of all of our leaders. I'm glad that this tragedy in Arizona has brought to light the great casualness with which we treat violence and violent rhetoric, of all things.

It is sad that it takes something so terrible happening in order for people to realize their mistakes, but perhaps this examination of the way we use our language, and the damage we can inflict with mere words, will have a real and powerful effect on our nation's leaders. And maybe this time they'll retreat, instead of reloading to fire another round of hateful speech. Because I think we all would rather live in a world that values peace and understanding, not violence.

associated press


Insanity, Made to Order

It seems as if those rascally republicans in the House of Representatives haven't missed a beat in laying a thick layer of hateful crazy onto the capitol since taking power earlier this week. They've already taken a number of damaging, damning actions and are threatening to do much more to our environment, our health care, and to our voter's directly.

It's hard to choose from the array of craziness just which measure proposed by the republicans is the craziest. Is it the exhaustive, but ultimately futile promise to repeal a health care reform law that the American people actually favor when words like "ObamaCare," "Government Option," and "Death Panels" are excluded from the rhetoric, and the true intention of the bill is explained? After all, a new finding by the Congressional Budget Office estimates that repeal of the health care reform law would actually increase our federal deficit by $230 billion. It is only the thick-pocketed favorite children of the insurance industries who so fervently defend this repeal (see Fox News' 5 Reasons Repealing ObamaCare Won't Increase the Deficit -ha!).

Then there is the republicans' outright assault on the environment. In just one week, they've managed to eliminate the House Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, declared that greenhouse gases should not be subject regulation under the Clean Air Act (despite the Supreme Court ruling them so back in 2007), announced intentions to block funding for government agencies who support cap and trade, and ultimately pushed to limit the power of the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of greenhouse gases and methane emissions. Meanwhile, the head of the house committee on oversight and government reform has reached out to energy companies and other business executives, asking them how they would like the government to be re-shaped.

But perhaps the insanity plat-du-jour is the blatant and vile racism that the republicans have shown towards citizens in the District of Columbia and in other U.S. Territories. Despite paying full federal taxes, residents in Washington, D.C. are not provided with any full representation in Congress. The one representative that they do have, Eleanor Holmes Norton, was stripped of her already limited voting rights in congress by House Republicans this week. Previously, the D.C. representative was allowed to vote on amendments and procedure, and could serve on committees, but could not vote to enact legislation. However, the Republicans in power have squashed even those limited rights that were previously allowed to the DC representative. And it is more than just a little suspicious that D.C., along with another 5 U.S. territories denied voting rights, is a Democratic area with a large number of minority constituents.

This is just the first week of the next two years of Republicans holding power in the House of Representatives. Over the course of this next Congressional session, we may anticipate more of such outrageous behavior. We could also maybe anticipate that the Republicans will continue, with the help of Fox News and other media puppets, to twist the truth and interject fearful, hateful language to further confuse and frustrate the American People. But perhaps we can also anticipate that this extremism will result in a powerful whip effect from progressives in the U.S., and that our citizens will become more informed, and thus more powerful to rally against this carefully pitched, well disguised agenda of the Republican lunatics.