The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Look. I'm a Liberal, but...

In listening to rhetoric about the Arizona shootings, I've picked up something that disturbs me. No, I'm not trying to make an equivalency between the actions of Left and Right. I'm merely commenting that there's something that makes me glad I'm not very political. It is this: on every Right-wing talk show there is insistence that talk had nothing to do with it. And on every Left-wing talk show, there is insistence that the Righties are lying sacks of shit.

And in the midst of all this, a simple question seems to have been forgotten: what will make this a safer world for nine-year-old girls? Remember after 9/11, when for a short period of time the whole world sympathized with us, and the Left stated (correctly, in my opinion) that America squandered an opportunity to take the high road, target the killers with surgical precision and use that cultural capital to build a safer world?

Well, something like that is happening right now. Every sane human being I've heard (and that is 99% of either Right or Left) has been appalled by the death of Christina Green. From a martial arts perspective, there is an opportunity to "Aikido" this: to look at the shared future and values held by everyone worth giving a damn about in this or any country. "Tone down the rhetoric on both sides" accomplishes EXACTLY what we want. Who cares if your damn feelings are hurt, because you think that implies that "your" side is equally to blame? What is it you're trying to accomplish: making the world safer, increasing the civility in political discourse and stopping the demonization...or being "right"? People die in bar fights every damn day because they had to be "right."

Here's the fact: whether they are responsible or not, NO TALK SHOW HOST IS GOING TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for this without opening himself to legal action or civil liability. Never. Doesn't matter whether that person was Liberal or Conservative. It is simply absurd to expect someone to say "we caused this" without multi-million dollar law suits. So when you point and scream: "take the blame" you know very well you aren't accomplishing anything other than feeling "right" and counting coup. On the other hand, if you say: "both sides need to calm the rhetoric", you give everyone, regardless of guilt or innocence, protective coloration and the safety to drop their guard. Exhale and return to neutral corners. Consider what has happened here, and remember that we are all Americans, and most of us are mothers and fathers who love nine year old girls.

If the girl is important, be kind. Be gentle and remember that no fighter drops his hands while the other guy is still swinging. If you insist on swinging, then you are more interested in your ego than in the safety of children.

Of course, as Dennis Miller said back when he was funny, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.



Bennett said...

Hate to be this cynical, Steve, but history would show that as long as it's someone else's nine year old girl, people will keep on swinging for the rafters.

I'd anticipate that this will change nothing except what's being argued about on the talking head 'news' hours, and maybe some updated Brady Bill.

Tragedy becomes a commodity pretty readily, on the public stage.

Marty S said...

The path this has taken is pretty sad. The initial reaction by everyone was appropriate. With everybody on both sides expressing sadness and coming together in the face of tragedy. Then somebody started pointing fingers and the whole thing changed from a common tragedy to another case of finger pointing and divisiveness between the left and right. Nobody is willing anymore to see the other side and realize that both sides are right about our problems and neither side has all the right answers. Until we become able to see a middle road again I sadly see no hope for dealing with our problems.

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Anonymous said...

For the Left to take your advice ("Tone down the rhetoric on both sides"), they'd have to be willing to at least theoretically concede that both sides have indulged in overheated political rhetoric.

They won't. And that's a shame. But, they will not. We could have a long discussion about why not. I think it is an empirical fact, though, that the Left will not.

I could write a lot more, but I won't; I'm too angry.

--Erich Schwarz

Dan Moran said...

I made the mistake of reading Fox News immediately after the shooting. I've been angry ever since. "Bitch got less than she had coming" was about par for the course.

Scott Masterton said...

There are always some that will make political hay at a time like this. However, I think the real truth is, is that when things like this happen it makes us all feel terribly, terribly vulnerable. Everyone starts looking for reasons that a tragedy happened. We saw it with JFK and even with Bruce Lee. No one wants to admit that a lone, insane gunman can cause so much damage for no reason other than his own insanity. Or that a world class martial artist in the prime of his life can be killed by a weak arterial wall in his brain. It HAS to be a conspiracy or the Dim Mak or some other thing. In a way, we want to be able to justify why this can't happen to us or our 9 year old daughter or our Congress person.

The inescapable truth is that awful things happen that have nothing to do with political phylosophy, "right" or "wrong" or fairness. They just happen. That's the heartbreaking paradox of being a self-aware creature like human beings are.

Dan Moran said...

BTW, Marty, Erich -- I'm sure you've noticed the blog getting quiet. Most of Steve's fans are on facebook -- you should send him a friend request there. I've missed the opportunity to spar with you guys occasionally ....

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Dan!

I'd stubbornly put off being Facebookified up until now. Guess I need to bite the bullet, though...

--Erich Schwarz

Sarah said...

I've put myself on a restricted news/internet hiatus because of what I've been reading on the various web sites I visit. If I was Mom of the world, I'd give everybody a time out. I appreciate your expressing your opinion because I agree and you said it way better than I could have.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan, Thanks for the Facebook pointer. I have taken away quite a bit from this blog, and directed many friends here. I had wondered where SB was putting his energy. Just friended him. Ron

Dan Moran said...

"Bitch got less than she had coming" -- and similar -- were comments on the initial story, not something said by anyone at Fox News. In case anyone misunderstood me. I don't like Fox, but no employee of the company has said anything like (at least, not in their employed capacity.)

Still pissed me off, though.

Shady_Grady said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with asking for more civility from everyone. If that can save lives and get things done I'm all for that. I think civility is generally a good thing. I do think the current political environment is poisonous.

But Jim David Adkisson, Von Brunn, Richard Poplawski, Jason Bush, Shawna Forde, Byron Williams, Scott Roeder etc were not people of the left.

The Left and Right are not playing in the same league when it comes to their words or more importantly their actions vis a vis violence.

They COULD be given certain circumstances but they are not.

Actions are what matter.

The people who are armed to the teeth, seething mad and talking about watering the tree of liberty tend not to be liberals.

How you fix that I don't know.
FWIW I think that the latest tragedy is more about mental illness than any political reason.

Lobo said...

If I had the time, money, talent, and manpower, I've been thinking about setting up a website with the sole purpose of publicly shaming all media/political personalities using insane rhetoric. Wouldn't matter if they were left, right, center, or fringe. Everyone gets a ticket. It would also serve as a storehouse for when stuff goes sideways again so they can't try this "Who, me?" crap.

Side note: The Republican fellow who started the Civility Project had to shut down this month (pre-Arizona) due to a combination of lack of interest among politicians and abusive, threatening emails and harassment from other conservatives.

Travis said...

That damn facebook...

Fine,see you there :)