After yesterday’s horrific events took place in Arizona, the 73 year old, seven-term sheriff of Pima County, Clarence Dupnik, addressed the press. He was exceedingly blunt. Not only did he suggest that the heated political climate in Arizona may have contributed to the day’s events, but he said that his state had, over the course of these past few years, become a “mecca for racism and bigotry.” I found his honesty refreshing. Others, however, weren’t so impressed. Several on the right are accusing the Sheriff of inserting politics where they don’t belong. Here he is with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly this morning, discussing this very issue.
Kelly: “With respect, sheriff, I know that you’re a Democrat and you ran for office as a Democrat, and I just want to press you on that a little. I’m sure some of our viewers are asking themselves why you are putting a political spin on this when they may be asking why you the sheriff aren’t just focused on the facts, on uncovering the facts.”
Does she have a point?
Just so we’re clear on this, I am not blaming Sarah Palin, or others in the media, for the events on Saturday. The responsibility lies with the individual who perpetrated the act, and, perhaps to some extent, the individuals who, seeing the warning signs, chose not to get involved. (You may also want to include the person who chose to sell him a gun, and those behind the system that allowed him to do so, but I’ll save that argument for another day.) I believe in free speech, and I don’t believe that additional restrictions should be put on Palin, or others. I do, however, think she, and others, should be held accountable by the public when they cross the line. In her case, I hope this ends her political career. More importantly, however, I hope it serves as a lesson to others who might be tempted to follow in her fear-mongering “mama grizzly” footsteps. People have to understand, as Sheriff Dupnik pointed out so eloquently, that their actions and words have consequences in the real world.
While I don’t think Palin, or other popular spewers of vitriol, are personally responsible in a legal sense, however, I also don’t think that you can view this young man’s actions completely out of context. Arizona is a hotbed of political unrest, torn apart over the immigration debate, and pushed to the fringes of sanity by the Tea Party and their billionaire backers. In the wake of the health care vote, someone fired a shotgun at the Congresswoman’s office. And, she has had numerous threats against her life. So, I wasn’t surprised to hear that the suspected killer had left racist diatribes online and seemed obsessed by the supposed un-Constitutionality of our government. These are palpable currents running through the discourse in Arizona, and, yes, I think it’s irresponsible for Sarah Palin to have thrown gasoline on the fire by introducing the imagery of murder and the vocabulary of guns. And I said so at the time.
Many of us saw this, or something like this, coming. We said so, and we were called fear-mongerers. And, now that the unthinkable has happened, we’re being blamed for taking this tragedy and using it to our political advantage. There is, it would seem, no place for reasonable discourse in today’s world, and we are paying the price for it.