By Melissa McEwan
Bill Kristol took to the airwaves this morning to call criticism of Palin "a disgrace" and accuse liberals of "McCarthyism." Commentators on Fox News, meanwhile, blame President Obama for not changing the tone in Washington, like he promised. Which would be hilarious, were that redirection of blame not a key part of conservatives' strategy to dodge responsibility for the eliminationist rhetoric that certainly contributed to the tragic events of this weekend.
When, a few months ago, there was a spate of widely-publicized suicides of bullied teens, we had, briefly, a national conversation about the dangers of bullying. But in the wake of an ideologically-motivated assassination attempt of a sitting member of Congress, we aren't having a national conversation about the dangers of violent rhetoric—because the conversation about bullying children was started by adults, and there are seemingly no responsible grown-ups to be found among conservatives anymore.
Faced with the overwhelming evidence of the violent rhetoric absolutely permeating the discourse emanating from their side of the aisle, conservatives adopt the approach of a petulant child—deny, obfuscate, and lash out defensively.
And engage in the most breathtaking disingenuous hypocrisy: Conservatives, who vociferously argue against the language and legislation of social justice, on the basis that it all "normalizes" marginalized people and their lives and cultures (it does!), are suddenly nothing but blinking, wide-eyed naïveté when it comes to their own violent rhetoric.
They have a great grasp of cultural anthropology when they want to complain about progressive ideas, inclusion, diversity, and equality. But when it comes to being accountable for their own ideas, their anthropological prowess magically disappears.
Only progressives "infect" the culture, but conservative hate speech exists in a void.
That's what we're meant to believe, anyway. But we know it is not true. This culture, this habit, of eliminationist rhetoric is not happening in a vacuum. It's happening in a culture of widely-available guns (thanks to conservative policies), of underfunded and unavailable medical care, especially mental health care (thanks to conservative policies), of a widespread belief that government is the enemy of the people (thanks to conservative rhetoric), and of millions of increasingly desperate people (thanks to an economy totally fucked by conservative governance).
The shooting in Tucson was not an anomaly. It was an inevitability.
To reiterate the point, compare two cases. Conservatives say Jared Lee Loughner wasn't influenced by conservative extremism when he shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, but Major Nidal Malik Hasan was influenced by Islamic extremism when he shot soldiers at Ft. Hood? I'd love to hear how they figure that one.
In reality, conservatives denounce pure rhetoric when it comes from Muslim extremists. Or from minorities demanding "inclusion, diversity, and equality," as McEwan put it. These ideas are somehow a threat to our values and our way of life. So we have to shut down ethnic studies programs and American mosques before they infect our children with dangerous thoughts.
But conservative political and religious vitriol is somehow different. It doesn't seem to matter how often conservatives target anyone who isn't a white Christian male...say they're inferior, un-American, or unholy...or try to eliminate their rights. By the power of conservative magic-wishing, this kind of speech doesn't affect anyone.
"When we talk about guns and posses and revolutions," they seem to be saying, "that's just rhetoric. But when liberals talk about Thanksgiving or Sitting Bull, these are covert attempts to brainwash our children. Our hate- and violence-filled speech is harmless, but their tolerance and diversity speech isn't.
Nice try to get away with "murder," conservatives. Too bad we're watching you like a hawk. We'll continue to denounce your lies and hypocrisies as long as you continue to utter them. if you don't like it, stop.
For more on the subject, see Political Vitriol in the Giffords Shooting and A History of Conservative Hate Speech.