The airwaves and bloggosphere are seething with the reverberations from attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords which killed six people and wounded fourteen others this weekend in Arizona. There is precious little I could possibly say in this forum which hasn’t already been said far more eloquently by a number of others.
The Conservatives are quick to turn this issue around onto the backs of those who have, for some time, been decrying the appalling decline in the stateliness that our political discourse has sunken to. Yes, it is quite likely that the perpetrator of this violence was acting from within a deranged mental state. Yet it is equally true that the litany of furious attacks from this individual’s sick mind also closely mirrors the incendiary bile spewed from the lips of Republican Party’s supporters.
I am having difficulty identifying just when it was that our country began finding it acceptable to embrace our lowest common denominator. A broad range of us seem disturbingly to be attracted to television programming where people objectify and abuse others. Whether it’s savoring the moment some ego-centric chef yells, humiliates and berates an lower employee on some reality program or Donald Trump leveling his finger at some celebrity apprentice, uttering the words, “You’re Fired!,” we seem as a people to have fallen into the abyss as did the ancient Romans; finding vicarious enjoyment in the pain of others. It seems a sickness from which this country has little interest of recovering.
My parents were loyal Republicans. When I came of voting age I became a registered Republican as well. In my younger years working as a young banking executive I voted for Ronald Reagan for president. Then something changed, in both me and the Republican Party. As some have said, they did not leave the Republican Party; the party left them.
I admired statesmen like Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield; an ethical and moderate conservative who opposed the Vietnam War. But today there would be no place for a statesman like Senator Hatfield in today’s Republican establishment. His moderate stance would likely find him labeled a “socialist”, a “communist” or even a “traitor” or “terrorist” some.
I think of the legacy my parents taught me; holding dignity, respect and integrity in high value. I cannot imagine that my mother and father, were they still alive today, would not be completely ashamed to be members of the Republican Party.
Perhaps that is what has been lost – a sense of shame; that hate is not a value on which any decent society can continue to exist. When did we lose our way?