Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Friday, January 14, 2011

Misdirected Anger Redirected

Not until I fired up the computer around 6:00 PM on January 8, 2011 did I learn about the terror in Tucson, “Old Pueblo” as it’s called, the town with the small-town atmosphere and the town I’ve always considered  a bit more enlightened and humane than other areas in Arizona.

My initial reaction was one of anger - anger at the far-right for stirring up anger, anger at the mainstream media for climbing into bed with them, and anger that once again a maniac has mowed down 14 innocent people, killing six - with a Glock 19 semi-automatic with 33 rounds of ammunition. And I felt profoundly sad - sad for the victims, sad for their families and friends, and even sad for Jared Lee Loughner's parents.

Since then my time has been devoted to blog-hopping, reading news reports and Facebook posts, watching videos and leaving an occasional comment. I could claim I’ve been looking for answers. I have, but mainly I’ve been avoiding writing about this latest shooting spree because memories of Columbine and Oklahoma City and Memphis and Dallas are still too raw. Needless to say, I haven't found any answers but I have found a lot of things that just don't add up in my book.

The media and the voices on the right didn't need to tell me that Jared Lee Loughner is insane. Of course he is. So were Eric and Dylan, Tim, James Earl and Lee Harvey. Face it, you can’t be anything but nuts to carry out this kind of terrorism. But if they'd look a little deeper, they'd find out that this is exactly the kind of unstable person the nuts on the right appeal to.

People, especially public figures, should realize that with freedom of speech comes responsibility, that words have consequences. Case in point:
. . . Ohio Democrat, Steve Driehaus, clashed repeatedly with Boehner before losing his seat in the midterm elections. After Boehner suggested that by voting for Obamacare, Driehaus "may be a dead man" and "can't go home to the west side of Cincinnati" because "the Catholics will run him out of town," Driehaus began receiving death threats, and a right-wing website published directions to his house. Driehaus says he approached Boehner on the floor and confronted him.
"I didn't think it was funny at all," Driehaus says. "I've got three little kids and a wife. I said to him, 'John, this is bullshit, and way out of bounds. For you to say something like that is wildly irresponsible.'"

Driehaus is quick to point out that he doesn't think Boehner meant to urge anyone to violence. "But it's not about what he intended — it's about how the least rational person in my district takes it. We run into some crazy people in this line of work."
The media and law enforcement spokesmen aren't connecting the dots when they say Loughner wasn't politically motivated exactly three seconds after they've just described the Gabrielle Giffords documents he'd been stashing away in his safe since 2007. “Before Sarah Palin,” they hasten to add. So are we to assume that Loughner ignored the map Palin put up on her Facebook page with the gun sights, one of them aimed at Giffords? Apparently so. The main stream media certainly ignored it, at least until a few days ago. And now the corporate media and their Republican brethren are claiming that the “don’t retreat, reload” lady from Wasilla wasn’t advocating violence. Exactly what was she advocating then?

But as they so rightly point out, Sarah didn't pull the trigger. Neither did Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or Sharon Angle who "floated the idea that the public would bring down an out-of-control Congress with "Second Amendment remedies." Only the very disturbed Jared Lee Loughner pulled the trigger and it just so happens that it was during a heightened atmosphere of hate, anti-government rhetoric, paranoia and anger on the part of the right-wing. Absolutely no connection.

A psychologist friend once told me that it isn't unusual for siblings to misdirect their anger at a parent for daring to die toward other siblings. While I didn't know these innocent victims in Arizona I was still angry and, like so many others, I needed a target, an outlet. But after days of reading - some of it thoughtful, some of it even profound, some of it not so civil - my anger began to subside. And then I heard the man who has been the target of so much hate and racism remind the American people to "take responsibility, to use the tragedy to refocus on how we treat others and what we say and how we say it."

And then I read and posted the open letter to parents from the man's wife.

I’m not as noble and wise as President Obama and First Lady Michelle but I don’t think I’m capable of retreating from calling out reckless speech, lies, hate, intolerance and ignorance. I’m not a well-known political figure and I don’t write a column for The Washington Post or The New York Times; I’m just a modest little blogger who reaches, probably without a great deal of influence, a very small group of people. But I will try to answer his call because I think he’s right. Civility has to begin somewhere but I’m only human and thus subject to human frailties – and some adjectives are really just statements of fact.

And I will redirect my anger – an anger that has been growing steadily over the past three years and has increased ten-fold over the last week. The only difference between the massacre in Tucson and previous acts of terrorism is that for the most part we now have a lazy, spineless, good-for-nothing corporate media. The main stream media, to a certain extent, has become synonymous with the right-wing media and is just as dedicated to brainwashing the public. Unlike Fox News they haven’t quite become the propaganda arm of the Republican Party but they’re uncomfortably close in the opinion of this media observer.

I will explore this notion – with plenty of evidence – in an upcoming article.

Every blogger on my role has written some good pieces - I invite you to link to them. Following are other suggested links:

Freedom to Shoot: Ivan Goldman criticizes Arizona Governor Jan Brewer for signing  a gun law that allows  people to carry a concealed weapon without requiring a permit. "No operator’s license, no sanity test, no rules."
Brewer said she was shocked, saddened, etc. by the events at a Tucson shopping center. Apparently her brain is unable to process two thoughts simultaneously, so she’s unable to see any connection between the maniacal wide-open gun legislation she so joyously celebrated and this event.
Words Have Consequences by Citizen Kane:
The question isn't whether conservatives condone murder. Few people do. But they have fomented it with their unveiled threats to water the the tree of liberty with blood of supposed tyrants; with their dark talk of a second civil war; with their wild accusations that anyone not like them is a dangerous socialist; with their portrayal of President Obama as a psychotic villain; with their threats and calls to arms; with their advocating the lynching of US senators; and with their use of rage and lies as a substitute for the honest debate that they cannot win. And for some, though the Susan Collinses and Olympia Snowes will deny it, it has come with their silent acquiescence to behavior that one hopes troubles them deeply.
Bill Clinton On Gifford's Assasination Attempt

The Blurred Line Between Mainstream Conservatism and Far Right Wing Extremism at Liberal Values

Sharron Angle Floated '2nd Amendment Remedies' As 'Cure' For 'The Harry Reid Problems'

Tragedy in Arizona, Richard Cohen, Southern Poverty Law Center

Freedom for Speech We Fear and Freedom to Fear It, Wendy Kaminer, the Atlantic

Words of wisdom from Rachel Maddow:


  1. I think you have said a lot and said it well.

  2. Succinct and deeply felt, without a doubt one of your best.

  3. It really is one of your best Leslie! I think we all will try and do what our president asks of us, as hard as it may be because the rightwingers will most likely ignore him. We always rise to the occasion for we are the adults in the room. President Obama proved that the other night...I love the liberals..

  4. Very well said, Leslie, this was an "amen" piece for me, I nodded in affirmation as I read your words. I think that you sum up the connections between the words that we say and the meaning that others take away from those words. I think that the forgotten element of our quickness to cite freedom of speech as supporting our right to spout any notion that pops into our heads is that with any freedom comes responsibility.

  5. Well put together and informative posting on this Leslie, and a Hell of alot better than the one I put together at that!

  6. Thanks to each of you. I'm truly touched.

    As we we've already seen, the right doesn't want to rise to the occasion, but I think this is even more reason why we more intelligent and compassionate souls must lead the charge, so to speak - as difficult as it may be. I feel that deep down the right is losing its appeal. Palin's polls have already been dropping and Beck has been dropped from several radio stations in NY, Philly and Boston. I think most Americans have grown weary of the hate, lies and vitriol and this latest tragedy has demonstrated that hate speech has tragic consequences - regardless of what the lame street media says.

  7. Excellent, Leslie. This is the piece I would have written if I had your talent.

    During this week of grieving and reflection, we need to look at these words, spoken by the titular head of the GOP, Rush Limbaugh, in response to President Obama's eulogy and call to civility and healing:

    "We don't need to heal."

    As long as people like Limbaugh have a platform where he can broadcast that hateful, cynical sentiment to millions of people, I'm afraid we'll learn nothing and nothing will change.

  8. I'm just crazy 'bout that gal! Thank you, Rachel. And you, too, Leslie!

    Tom Degan

  9. The quotes from Boehner are especially disturbing. Beck and Palin and Limbaugh are just rabble-rousers, but a man in his position ought to know better.

    The fact that Loughner is mentally disturbed doesn't mean his act was not political. Many political extremists are paranoid. And an unstable paranoid is exactly the kind of person most likely to be spurred to violence by a steady drum-beat of extremist rhetoric.

    If the gunsight map was so innocuous, why did Palin pull it off her site immediately after the shootings?

    That sums up the whole reaction from the right, which is still in denial about the implications. Their denial is a little too histrionically outraged. I think it's themselves they're trying to convince, as much as us.

  10. Great post Leslie! All of this has been very disturbing and shocking. We must changed!

  11. Leslie:

    I have been angry for years. I think I can safely say we all have. Thank you for taking the time to pull your thoughts together in such a meaningful post. The struggle between emotions and reason is a tough one, isn’t it?

    In a New York Times post, “Obama’s Finest Hour,” Garry Wills compare the president’s speech in Arizona to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. So, I read that famous speech again, although I can still quote most of it from having memorized it in elementary school. Wills’ comparison is true in that Obama, like Lincoln, did not choose to blame “the enemy,” but rather to honor the fallen. Wills wrote:

    “Obama came to the speech from the bedsides of those who had been wounded. Their message to him was one of dedication: ‘hey believed, and I believe, that we can be better.’ This rang a bell with me. It reminded me of the lesson of the fallen that Lincoln took from Gettysburg — ‘that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.’ At Gettysburg Lincoln might have been expected to defend the North and blame the South. … Rather, the bulk of his speech was given to praising the dead and urging others to learn from them.”

    I believe it was Shaw who left a link to that post, and when I clicked on her link to Rush Limbaugh, I got mad as hell, because, rather than give Obama’s words their due, Limbaugh chose to call them “the Arizona pep rally.”

    It’s OK to be angry. One of the human emotions Jesus Christ exhibited was anger. It’s the rising above it that makes us stronger.


  12. ". . .if they'd look a little deeper, they'd find out that this is exactly the kind of unstable person the nuts on the right appeal to."

    Exactly right.

    But why do the nuts on the right keep doing what they do, even the though the potential for great harm is well established?

    The keep on because doing it brings them publicity, money and votes. Because doing it makes them heroes to a segment of the population that wants not just a public servant who agrees with them, but a sharp stick in the eye of the opposition as well.

    Think spite.

  13. Shaw: Thanks for the link. Has anyone else wondered why the MSM falls all over themselves to report every damn thing silly Sarah says and does, and defends her in the process, but rarely, if ever, covers Beck or Limbaugh?

    Mr. Degan: Thanks for coming by. I get a lot of inspiration from The Rant. Peace, my friend.

    Infidel: "The fact that Loughner is mentally disturbed doesn't mean his act was not political." Of course but why can't the MSM and the right understand this? I'm sure there are some right-wingers who are very uncomfortable with this turn of events but instead of saying so, they seem to be even more pugnacious than before, if possible.

    Anon: Thank you. I have hope but then I had hope after all the other horrible incidents!

    BJ: Thanks. I'm being criticized by my daughters and some friends for "sounding" so angry all the time. I think I'm angry because I think Americans "can do better than this." BTW, I'm impressed that you can remember anything you memorized in elementary school. LOL.

    SW: We can only hope that there's even a bigger segment of the population that is genuinely turned off by all this ignorance, rage and hate.

  14. Great post Leslie.

    Tom Brokaw made an excellent point the other day when he said we live in a society where a crazy person can buy a Glock with an extended magazine with no questions asked, and the average traveler can't bring a full sized bottle of shampoo on an airliner for security reasons.

    A whole of wrong things are going on, and few persons in positions to change things are willing to show the political courage to do so.

    Jonathan Swift must be spinning in his grave.

    The real Yahoos have taken over and have been calling the shots for way too long.

  15. Hugh: Brokaw made an excellent point here but I also heard him say something else that didn't sit so well with me - but that's for my next post. ; )

  16. Thank you, Leslie, for saying everything I have been thinking. This is an outstanding post and I congratulate you.

    I vacillate between being angry and being sad. I just read the editorial page of my local paper and I am dismayed that among some very thoughtful and wise comments are the usual rants about the mean liberals who are blaming the Tea Party bunch; they think they are the victims. Sarah Palin's self serving video and those articles do not give me much hope for change.

  17. I had not heard of Driehaus's story. I had been willing to let Boehner wiggle off the hook on the violent rhetoric others on the right are so clearly and obviously guilty of, but I've been wised up by this post.

    Your good research and your good writing are a true public service.

  18. Darlene, I've been thinking about you all week. I'm sure everyone in Tucson is stunned. Poor Sarah. She's been receiving hate messages on her FB. Ye reap what ye sow.

    One act of kindness. McCain wrote an op ed for the Wasington Post "called Obama a "patriot" intent on using his presidency to "advance our country's cause" and rejected accusations -- many coming from members of his own party and the tea party movement -- "that his policies and beliefs make him unworthy to lead America."

    I'd say perhaps he's feeling a little guilty for thrusting that woman on the American people. But this isn't the time for cynicism and he did the same thing during the campaign.

    Also I've just posted a video on FB announcing that the parents of the little girl have donated her heart, I believe, to a little girl in Boston.

  19. CORRECTION: The report just says "organs."

    Nance: Thank you. I guess research is in my blood; I don't seem to be able to help myself. Boehner is a smooth operator but not very bright and I'm almost positive that he'll be taking a nose dive before all the shouting is over.

  20. Throwing my two-cents in even though its late. Excellent post!

    It’s OK to be angry. One of the human emotions Jesus Christ exhibited was anger. It’s the rising above it that makes us stronger.

    I think our society would do very well to understand what you wrote. Sadly, it appears to be quite happy living in ignorance and rage.

  21. BB: I know you've been vacationing but glad you've kept up with all the insanity. You're right and Palin keeps talking and the MSM keeps defending her.

  22. This was a great post and some of the things I agree with, some not so much. I don't think I will be able to be civil, to that person that is calling for liberals to be hunted down, or we are dirty nassty socialists that want to kick babies and eat kittens. I don't know if I will be able to keep from calling that bagger I might speak to, an idiot for believing the lies they are being fed. If you can do it, more power to you. I don't think I will be able to, not ready to make nice quite yet as the Dixie Chicks said.

    I've been going back and forth with anger and more anger myself Leslie. I am tired of all the false equivalency and the left always, but always, having to be the ones that cave for whatever reason.

    This guy was insane, most certainly, $ister $arah, Our Lady of Perpetual Victimhood has been doing her 21st victim tour and not once, not once has she said know what, maybe my choice of campaign rhetoric was unwise. We have had people on the left, since this happened say, we have to tone down the rhetoric. It won't work no matter how hard we try, if the other side is not willing to do it. That's just this sad and angry persons take on it.

  23. One of the wonderful things about freedom of speech that republicans, in general (including the tea party, which is just an arm of the GOP) refuse to acknowledge is that while they have the right to spew whatever nonsense and diatribe they wish, others have the right to tell them they are being assholes and to STFU. I'll probably keep telling them they are being assholes and to STFU :)

    Great post, Leslie...seriously, great, great post.

  24. Jess: I'm certainly not going to crawl into bed with them politically but I really feel I can kick them in the ass more effectively by not crawling into the toilet with them.

    Bee: So glad to see you up and about the blogosphere. Obviously you're feeling much better. ; ) And thanks.

  25. Excellent post ! As usual.

    The Right needs to reconnect itself with common sense and voting for their country's interests, not the party montra of "No New Taxes" and selfish interests.

    "Nut Jobs" like this shooter, are partially motivated by the kind of irresponsible "talk" coming from the Right.

    Where are the members of their own party, to say, "Enough already! This garbage oratory, is hurting America?"

  26. Tom said: "Where are the members of their own party, to say, "Enough already!"

    To McCain's credit, he did write an OpEd in the WaPo calling for more civility and less vitriol. But I haven't seen or heard of any other well-known conservatives doing likewise. On the upside I do think the majority of people are tired of this rhetoric and are bit by bit turning away from Beck and Limbaugh and even Palin. I think we need to remember that the Tea Party is a minority - a loud, destructive one that gets far more media coverage than they deserve.

  27. In response to a posting from another site where you declared that you were just finishing up a piece on the media, I navigated here.

    I have written smaller posts suggesting that "the liberal media" was a fictitious entity. I would be very interested in reading such a post, if this is the direction you are going. If so, let me know when you post it.

  28. John! First, let me welcome you. I should be posting this sometime today, tomorrow at the latest. The research has taken a lot longer than I anticipated but isn't this always the case?

  29. Rather powerful piece Lesley... and excellent words. That matter.

  30. Thanks, Gwendolyn. Unfortunitely my hopes dim as each day passes and the extreme right just cranks up their vitriol even higher.