The Rhetoric of Sarah Palin

13Jan11

Pretty much everyone is discussing right-wing rhetoric following the tragedy in Arizona, and I think it’s something that needs to be discussed.  No matter how the perpetrator of these terrible actions identifies, it is a fact that there is a culture of violence around politics right now, and that the right is encouraging it and making it grow on a large scale.  What has bothered me, up to this point, is the focus on Sarah Palin in particular.  This is not because she doesn’t deserve to be called out — she does — but because she is not the only person on the right who is using a position of power to encourage violence.  Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have hardly been mentioned by name in all of this, and they deserve their fair share of the blame.  But then, Palin made the “blood libel” comment.  And honestly, if you know that term, I don’t see how you can not know to what it actually refers.  And I realized, in that moment, that Sarah Palin wants this to be about her, and she doesn’t really give a damn if she reveals herself as a Bigot McBigotface to do so, because the majority of her base does not care.  We are the ones who care if she’s a bigoted asshat, and we are her enemies.

David A. Harris, President of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said:

Following this weekend’s tragedy, we—and many others—simply did two things: we prayed for our friend Gabby while keeping all of the murdered and wounded in our thoughts and prayers, and we talked in broad terms about our increasingly charged level of political debate—asserting that now is as good a time as any to look inward and assess how all of us need to dial back the level of vitriol and anger in our public square. Nobody can disagree with the need for both.

Instead of dialing down the rhetoric at this difficult moment, Sarah Palin chose to accuse others trying to sort out the meaning of this tragedy of somehow engaging in a “blood libel” against her and others. [NJDC]

And this is really indicative of Sarah Palin’s character as a whole.  In a time when she should have either stayed silent or made an apology for her rhetoric, she rushed to cover her ass and then co-opted a term in the worst way possible in order to play the victim.  In a time when we should be focusing on Gabrielle Giffords and the people who were killed and injured in the shooting, we are focusing on Sarah Palin, because Sarah Palin wants us to focus on her.  And I know that, right now, I am talking about Palin and contributing to this.  But henceforth I am going to make an effort to change — when I speak about right-wing rhetoric, I will not focus on one person, I will focus on the entire group that is encouraging this violent political climate.  When I point out a specific instance, I will be sure to give attention to multiple people, rather than focusing on one.

I am never one to say that we should ignore an issue, because the left as a whole does that enough as it is.  But right now, while we are having these important discussions, I think it’s vital to make them about more than Sarah Palin.  I think we need to make them about Gabrielle Giffords, about the other victims of the shootings, about the victims of political violence everywhere.  We need to make them about putting a stop to this, about standing up for our ideals, about holding people accountable.  Does this require talking about Palin?  Yes, I think so.  But I think it also requires talking less about Palin than we have been, and a little more about everyone else.

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