Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Loving to Hate

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?

22 comments:

Gorilla Bananas said...

The guy who did it is obviously nuts. His favourite books include Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto, so I don't think Republicans had much influence on his political outlook.

Elisabeth said...

It's terribly sad when something like this happens. I suspect it involves a period of national mourning, and as you no doubt know Robert, mourning is process and one that a series of emotions beinning with shock followed by anger and so on.

At the same time, I agree with you there is also a tendency and not only in America to admire public displays of the 'ugly' emotions. It reminds me of more primitive times, as when the Romans enjoyed their gladiators.

TechnoBabe said...

I agree with your assessment and think your parents would definitely be ashamed of being in the Republican party today. I registered as a Democrat when I was old enough to vote. Working for a huge corporation a few years later, we were encouraged to switch to Republican, and since in my mind I could vote for the person and not the party I switched to Republican. About six years ago I could not be associated with the Republican party in any way any longer so I switched back to Democrat. And I was ashamed even then that it took me so long to do that. These are unbelievable times. But they are real.

DJan said...

I was born in a family with a Democrat for a mother and a Republican for a father. They argued a lot, but Daddy was the one I thought was right, until I heard him ranting about FDR being the person who ruined our country. I was old enough and knew enough to wonder about it, studied up on it, and as soon as I was old enough to vote, followed my mother's lead.

I do wonder what my father would think of the Republican Party today, but they represent a huge segment of our country. I don't understand it.

Octopus said...

There is no symmetry of free speech between armed and unarmed persons. When folks bring guns to town hall meetings, or employ the symbolism of guns in their rhetoric, or suggest Second Amendment remedies as alternatives to civil discourse, their purpose is to intimidate and browbeat and threaten the safety of all who oppose them (and I think this sums up the undemocratic tendencies of the tea party movement).

Robert the Skeptic said...

Bananas I believe you are UK, right? So you are not exposed to the overwhelming and continuous Conservative media mantra which pervades this country. Have you ever listened to Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Anne Coulter, Sean Hannity, Lars Larson [and hosts of local conservative talk jockies]? There is NOTHING to compare on the Democratic side. Palin just took down her map with the "gun site" markers over Democratic districts. Do you have anything even remotely threatening like that in the UK?

I'm not drawing a direct line between the Republican Party and the shooting which just happened. But the event did not happen in a vacuum and it was no coincidence that the target was a Democrat.

Are the people who put up anti-abortion "wanted" posters with the pictures of doctors on them responsible for their murders? Yes, the perpetrator was a nut, so why didn't he go into a library, or a gas station... why did he pick the target that he did?

My PERSONAL EXPERIENCE as a former Republican, though anecdotal to be sure, is that the tenor of the party message has changed SIGNIFICANTLY, and it is quite ugly. I've met Senator Hatfield; he is not cut from the same cloth as today's party.

Elizabeth The reverberations from this will die down soon enough and we will return to our basic nature. The call for change will be mediated and minimized until the next tragedy.

Rain said...

I think we go through violent times every so often. They need to be condemned and not defended especially the hate-filled rhetoric. That is not what makes a Town Hall event work even without guns. The Internet has for sure contributed to it as people can be anonymous and say anything they want to others that they probably will never meet for real. Reading comment streams on some of the newspapers can be a real eye opener for where the level of vitriol is at. Taking the risk of shootings out of it, how can that be healthy?

billy pilgrim said...

everything seems to be geared toward instant gratification these days whether it be people over extending themselves on cheap credit, politicians kneejerk reactions to events or corporations with their sights set on the next quarterly earnings report.

thoughtful planning for the future would appear to be lost art for most.

alwaysinthebackrow said...

For some time now, my husband has commented that we soon will have a reality show that will mimic the Romans, and we will watch contestants kill each other, or be killed by something.
It is a sad time in America.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Rain I don't read the reader comments in newspaper web sites because they are all anonymous. I think the papers should require that people use their true identities when they make their comments.

Billy We are indeed an instant gratification society and our attention span suffers as a result. A "long-term" solution to a problem is about three-weeks in duration.

BackRow I think that is an apt analogy. Because the public desires indulgence at our lowest common denominator does not mean that the media and entertainment purveyors are required to satisfy that need.

Wow, that was awkward said...

I really wish we could get away from this two party dominant system. I haven't been able to vote for Republicans because I disagree with them on too many social issues and like you said, they seem to be getting even more conservative. Oh, and not to mention the whackadoodles they thrust to the forfront in the likes of GW Bush, Palen, etc.

PeterDeMan said...

Robert, John Dean, noted conservative, wrote a book called "Conservatives Without Conscience." about how the "part" evolved into what it is today. We have the book. It points out in detail that this is not your parents Republican party. It's an extraordinarily good book about the subject. Interestingly it paints Dick Cheney as being absolutely evil. But overall it illustrates how vitriol has taken over the conservative wing of our system.spierp

KleinsteMotte said...

How very sad and yet not surprising that it happened. The respect that humans once shared for one another is being torn down in so many ways. There seems to be a growing community of folks who are failing to show respect. How do we change this? Education. Get the budget to maximize teaching all and cut the spending on war machines. Weapons will not protect a mindless nation.
Today I learned the meaning of vitriol, a word used several times. It's use seems odd since it's primary meaning is attached to metallic sulphates.

GutsyWriter said...

so I'm going to take a different approach: Are we just getting old? I'm talking about reality TV and the lowest common denominator, not the terrible incident that happened. I fear that people are getting less educated and worry about our future.

Octopus said...

@ PeterDeMan,
Perhaps I can make a case that the mean streak in the Republican Party is not a recent phenomenon. In many respects, Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, et. al. are the progeny of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Note the similarities in paranoia, style, and tactics.

What is new and different: McCarthyism has gained mainstream legitimacy that it lacked before.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Awkward Wackadoodles indeed. Discouraging with a collection like that they still garner close to 50% of the popular vote.

Peter I sometimes wonder if the character of Dearth Vader was modeled on Chaney... or perhaps Vader is Cheny's role model.

KleinsteMotte I am not sure that this level of discourse we have sunken to can be corrected through education. They are core values which somehow have been lost along the way. Media, social pressure... who knows?

Robert the Skeptic said...

Gusty I believe the two are closely connected - this proclivity to be the worst we can be rather than the best. The reality TV panders and sets a new and lower standard for acceptable behavior. Because it garners ratings, advertisers and revenue should not be the only considerations in airing this garbage.

Octopus I would agree except that McCarthy was an aberration in his time, an exception to the mainstream Republican party. Today McCarthy would likely be considered a "moderate", unfortunately.

The Mother said...

Tolerance for other's opinions seems to be at an all time low.

That said: Politicians have been using war metaphors for millennia; American politicians for over two centuries. Blaming this on Republican rhetoric is just political grandstanding.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Dr. Mom True politicians have been using "war metaphors" for some time. What has changed, though, are the extremely vitriolic attacks against individuals by Conservatives against Progressives. Specifically, terms like "socialist", "communist", "traitor" and "terrorist" and including imagery of Hitler and the making of direct or indirect implications that the solutions to their opposition lie in gun/death imagery.

Is there enough blame to go around? Yes. But the overwhelming preponderance of this rhetoric can be attributed directly to Conservatives and those who support them.

secret agent woman said...

My father was the sort of Republican you described until his later years. He has since gradually embraced the Fox-style right. I think for many it's an insidious process.

Robert the Skeptic said...

SecretAgent You may be correct, it is an insidious process and I may be incorrectly assuming that my father would reject today's Republican party... he could well have "evolved" with the party leanings gradually over the years. Yet there are some, like our Senattor Hatfield, who have quietly backed away from the new-Republican party. One can only hope.

Snowbrush said...

My parents voted faithfully and even contributed money--of which they had little--to an occasional campaign, but I couldn't tell you what party they favored. Mississippi at the time (the '60s) was still Democratic in state elections but increasingly Republican in national ones, so maybe they were too. I really don't know.