Tucson and One of Our Own Elders
A Day in an Elder's Life

Thoughts on Tucson

Since there really isn't much else to think about this week, let's keep going on the Arizona massacre. Some random thoughts:

That awful church, Westboro Baptist, that demonstrates with vile signs and slogans at military funerals announced they will picket the funeral tomorrow of nine-year-old Christine Taylor Green who was murdered on Saturday.

But Tucson has pulled together and volunteers will hold an “angel action.” They are sewing 8 x 10 foot angel wings to shield the family and friends of Christine from the Westboro picketers. In the past, Hell's Angels have organized to prevent the church from disrupting funerals. These strange bedfellows give me hope and should be an inspiration to Congressional adversaries.

Way back on Saturday – doesn't that feel like a long time ago now? - before emergency medical workers had finished their grisly tasks at the Safeway store, Sarah Palin, in an apparent belief that the country required her immediate response, issued this statement even before the president had spoken:

“My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona,” she wrote. “On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.”

She has been embarrassing herself for too long now. She lost an election, quit her public job, cashed in on her notoriety and now, with this self-important gaucherie, it is time for her to go. Please. Please. Go.

In a quickie CBS News poll conducted on Sunday and Monday, 57 percent said harsh political rhetoric had nothing to do with the shooting in Tucson. Predictably, more Republicans believe this than Democrats and independents.

I'm not so sure.

As I said yesterday, I don't believe Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the pundit loudmouths are responsible for the Arizona shootings. But they do make an outsized contribution to an increasing acceptance of violent death images in public conversation.

At the least, hateful rhetoric decreases the possibility of rational debate on the important issues our nation faces. At the most, it increases the possibility that an unhinged someone will take it as permission. (That is not to say that I think this necessarily applies to Arizona suspect, Jared Loughner. No one knows.)

Political partisans have expended a great deal of effort trying to enumerate who – the left or the right – is to blame. Even a cursory search of the web reveals far more, and more over-the-top, rhetoric from the right, but I don't think we should dwell on that. Everyone needs to take it down a few notches – permanently.

This debate over who is more culpable prompted Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to issue a press release yesterday titled, “treat incitement seriously or expect more Gabrielle Gifford (sic) killing sprees.”

Assange and the Wikileaks staff have a good deal of personal experience with vicious hate speech. Some examples:

Rush Limbaugh:
"Back in the old days when men were men and countries were countries, this guy would die of lead poisoning from a bullet in the brain."

Bob Beckel (Fox):
"A dead man can't leak stuff...This guy's a traitor, he's treasonous, and he has broken every law of the United States. And I'm not for the death penalty, so...there's only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch."

(Aside: If this were not so deadly, it would be funny that someone with a paid-for soapbox doesn't know that an Australian, by definition, cannot be a traitor to the U.S.)

Sarah Palin:
"Julian Assange should be targeted like the Taliban."

Jonah Goldberg (National Review)
"I’d like to ask a simple question: Why isn’t Julian Assange dead? ...Why wasn’t Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago? It’s a serious question."

You can argue with me about repeating this stuff here, but just look at the monstrousness of it – and that's only a small portion of calls for the murder of Assange.

Are you not shocked silly? I am. Aside from internet clips, I have never watched Fox News; I don't listen to talk radio of any political stripe; and I only occasionally dip into the National Review so I didn't know people urge murder to their listeners and readers. I don't mean to sound naïve, but aren't those statements the media equivalent of shouting fire in a theater?

I have some experience in my past – in the 1960s and '70s – producing talk radio programs and I have not a twinge of doubt that had anything close to statements quoted above happened then, the host and producer would be immediately canned - probably yanked off the air within five minutes.

More, the radio station would have been flooded with complaints from listeners. Boycotts would have been mounted. But I can find no reports of public protest against the radio hosts of today. Their sulfuric invective lives on after the broadcasts in print, on YouTube and on publications' websites without a word of condemnation.

Have we all become inured to brutal rhetoric?

There seems, even in the aftermath of Tucson, to be no shame. I haven't checked, but many sources report that the bulls eye graphic remains on Sarah Palin's Facebook page. And this, since removed, appeared on Glenn Beck's website until yesterday:

Beck Gun Image

Why was that gun image on Beck's website in the first place? What was his intention in publishing it? What did he expect his website readers to know from seeing it?

Well, I'm rambling now. If nothing else comes from the killings in Tucson, it has created a moment to reflect, to think and talk among ourselves about the nation's culture of violence and perhaps develop a consensus. We can do some of that here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Steve Kemp - LONG LOST NEWS: Rumsfeld: Democracy Doesn't Work


Curious how like the calls for Assange's killing echo the calls for Rushdie's killing. Do these bigotted pundits live in a bubble?

I am appalled at the things they say. The only time I ever hear any of that garbage is when I pass through the room where my husband is watching the news. I wouldn't watch it if it were the only TV station available. Ignorance is bliss - for me. (I know that's dangerous, too, but it's a way to save my sanity.)

Although at present it seems politically unfeasible, sensible limitations on the ownership of firearms meant to kill people (not for game hunting) would reduce the carnage when emotions or delusions get out of hand. That's a cause worth working for. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence does good work on this -- for example, they've signed up police chiefs to join them in trying to close the opportunity for any nut to buy guns at gun shows with no permit or background check of any kind.

The world has way too much information and far too few facts. Without facts it's had to make well-reasoned decisions.

I've been careful for years...even about reading editorials. Do I really need or want someone to tell me what I should be thinking? No, I'd rather decide for myself.

I avoid radio and TV diatribes. All of us need collect what we feel is the critical information (preferably factual), take the time to reflect and formulate our OWN opinions and approaches.

Too many of us feel powerless these days...except to vote, write letters to key people, and the occasional small acts of civil disobedience. But REALLY, how powerful and influentual do any of those things make us feel?

It's easy to jump on someone else's bandwagon...particularly if they have a big megaphone...so lots of people do.

More of us need to think for ourselves.

You've got that so right ... it's time to take it down a notch, permanently!
Why have we as a people allowed this to go uncensored?

We, those over 50, can remember when politics just wasn't discussed on public airwaves. The repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 is, IMO, the real problem (see Wikipedia). With so many other mediums available, I wish this was reinstated for public (free) telecommunication. I am not holding my breath.

It's easy to target the "right," but, again IMO, there is no meaningful political right or political left (this is an idea I'm working on)--there are only corporate flunkies and those opposed to a corporate takeover of our government.

What you said and to add to it more effective policies regarding mental illness. We are in a time where some say the government can do nothing and they prove it by trying to block money for anything they are doing. Dealing with mental illness, having policies in place to force some to have testing to determine their risk to society (Arizona apparently had that in place but who knew? These things have to be publicized).

The nasty, often vile tone hasn't helped and a poisoned atmosphere can definitely take a fragile mind further over the edge.

Mary Jamison...

I must differ with you about politics not being discussed on radio before 50 years ago.

One example - Father Coughlin, a virulent anti-Semite, began his radio show in the early 1930s and was hugely popular with 30 million listeners.

Beginning in 1950, Joe Pine can be considered an early forerunner of confrontational radio hosts. He pioneered call-in shows.

The programs I produced beginning in the early 1960s were always political. There were many radio personalities who based their programs on politics going back to the earliest days of radio.

Question: Would anyone here classify Julian Assange as an ENEMY of the United States? He may not be guilty of treason but he certainly is guilty of trying to harm us as a nation through our government. I know; WE THE PEOPLE is not a phrase most think of when it comes to government but actually, WE are being harmed by the release of information not intended for public disclosure.

I am all for our 2nd amendment right to bear arms but along with that right comes great responsibility and not all are capable of being that responsible. I would never want to see a time in this country when only the government and our armed forces are legally allowed to bear arms. I do however believe there is a means of keeping guns out of the hands of those mentally ill or weak of mind and lacking sufficient emotional control or anyone convicted of a violent crime. There must be a way of filtering such undesireables out of the gun buying process.

Knife and gun shows need to either be banned or more tightly regulated.

So, what do you think should be done to Julian Assange, if anything? He certainly is worthy of punishment and I don't mean verbal admonishment. Whomever has jurisdiction over him needs to put an end to his crimes; YES! I believe he is a criminal.

Westboro Baptist isn't a church in any sense of the word. They're a vile group of hatemongers, who hide behind the innocent-sounding words "Baptist" and "church." Shame on them.

And praise to those who are doing what they can to counter the nastiness of the group.

From today's New York Times: "In Phoenix, the State Legislature quickly passed an emergency law to block a controversial church that protests outside funerals from getting too close to the services planned in Tucson.

"The measure, which keeps protesters 300 feet back from funerals, is intended to head off members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, who have praised the shooting and plan to picket the funeral on Thursday of Christina Green, a 9-year-old victim, and a service on Friday for Judge John M. Roll of Federal District Court.

“'I was physically sick when I heard this,' said State Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who sponsored the measure. 'Then I decided to do something. Nothing happens in one day in politics, but this did. This tragedy is nonpartisan. It’s human.'

"Community volunteers were mobilizing to plan their own street-side memorial service to counter the protesters, with some planning to wear angel wings."

Thank goodness for people who are willing to stand up to evil.

@ Ronni - Really? Shows how much I know! I never heard them - altho I wonder if being virulently anti-Semitic is the same as being political, in the way that Rush Limbaugh's deliberate aim at discrediting Democrats is overtly political. What was Joe Pine's show about?


Father Coughlin was a widely active in the politics of the 1930s, promoting his views.

Joe Pine, like the radio hosts of today, discussed the political and other events of his time.

You can read about both of them at Wikipedia.

Ronni, I was just casting about on the web looking for any videos that might exist of Father Coughlin and Joe Pyne -- but I see you have already made the point: there is a long history of RADIO being the source of such virulent political hate speech.


Hitler used radio to incite the German people to acts of violent anti-semitism (check out "Kristal Nacht" on Wikipedia.) Mussolini was no stranger to the airwaves either.
We must forgive the Palins, Becks et al but we must not forget the potential for rabble rousing that lies just under the surface of our not so "polite society"

Glock sales up 60% in Arizona. Does that scare you? Why oh why, do we allow anybody but soldiers and the police to posses automatic weapons?
Do they really plan on allowing their college students to bring them to school in Arizona?

I'm sounding a single note, I confess, but really, as long as Americans love their guns, we are going to have lots and lots of these murders. My brother in law has a closet full of guns and ammo. A lot of men have guns which they say they use for hunting, and yet they seldom or never hunt. Get rid of the things, I say. They exist for one purpose only: killing.


I just watched Sarah Palin's 7 minute diatribe against anyone who dares suggest that she or any other right wing personality,journalist or radio talk show host is responsible in any way for the shootings in Tucson.

As usual, Shakespeare said it best...

"Methinks the lady doth protest too much."

Please, everyone, let's not pull out the Hitler/Nazi references. Remember Godwin's Law.

Becks website showing a gun in his hand !!!! Great for the gun lobby.

This comment from Sarah Palin seems to assume Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is dead.

“My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona.”

She is reacting without gathering any confirming information--typical inappropriate behavior.

All of this is terribly troubling. So much meanspiritedness out there so I'm with kenju......I don't watch, but I hear some of the "news" in my downsized condo. And as for Assange, I have mixed feelings so that I refreshed my memory by researching Daniel Ellsberg & the Pentagon Papers. I know I'm not the only one who remembers this historical event. That said, I remain undecided. Dee

We DO have something good, elderblog-wise, from this awful tragedy. Look at the age of the people who stopped the shooting:


Please everyone, Let's not ascribe everything malicious to the 'other guy'. Bob Beckel was campaign manager for Walter Mondale and what about that generous minded Paul Krugman in the NYT after the event? Life is way too precious to keep on with this "he said" and then "she said".
This tragedy as all these terrible events (President Reagan's assassination attempt for instance) do not point to hatred within. We ALL as American citizens must
rise above the attempts to divide us and turn us against one another. Don't we all have good friends or wonderful family members with whom we don't agree on everything? We still love them. Life IS short--let's live it generously.

Probably the saddest aspect of this National Tragedy is that NO ONE actually made an effort to get this mentally ill young man psychiatric help. PERHAPS if he had been in therapy, this tragic , wasteful incident MIGHT NOT have happened. If the Congress and the President truly wish to take significant action after this loss, why don't they create and pass a new mental health program to help such sick people. And, please stop the verbal fear and hate mongering on both sides;plus, stop the attack on legitimate gun ownership by sane people. Mentally ill people will find a way to ignore all laws. I do support the reinstatement of the automatic pistol weapon ban; trying to stop the sale of pistol bullet clips that hold more than a very few would be a sound step as well.

Ronni's gentle reminder of Godwin's law reminded me that one doesn't need to reach back over seventy years to European politics for an example of the terrible power of the media to incite and provoke violence. The Rwandan genocide in the nineties provides a perfect example of the willful use of propaganda for that purpose. It was a time when misuse of freedom of speech and encouragement to political violence resulted in unthinkable violence. Rather than dig deeper into that, I'll share this link: http://bit.ly/eOZktu

I agree with Mary Jamison that the 1987 repeal of the fairness doctrine opened the door for intentional propaganda efforts aimed at upsetting the political process in the USA.

The Department of Justice provides information on all aspects of the criminal justice system in the US. They have murder statistics going back to 1964.

Of the more than three quarters of a million people murdered in the USA since 1964, almost two-thirds were murdered by gunfire (486,458 gun deaths of 755,713 total).

The Brady Handgun Control Act in 1994 and the federal Assault Weapons Ban that same year may have helped reduce gun violence. Gun deaths in 1995 were quite a bit lower than in 1993 and 1994, and when the Assault Weapons ban ended in 2004 the numbers of casualties again rose, although not to the levels they were at before the Brady bill.

Regarding Wikileaks and Julian Assange... well, as you might expect, I have opinions there too, but most germane to this discussion is my sincere hope that the rabble rousing and threats of violence will end now, and that Assange will be safe and able to find a fair hearing in Great Britain regarding his extradition to Sweden as well as a fair hearing in the court of public opinion.

"It is precisely because such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate, " That I violated Godwin's Law

I'm prone to ignoring that particular speed limit myself, but I was interested in the Rwandan parallel.

And in that serendipitous Googly way, I've just run across this this post by Julian Assange on the Rwandan Human Rights blog. Assange makes many good points about Wikileaks' status as a publisher and his own position as a citizen of Australia. It's worth reading!

oh such short memories...
I can recall horrible things that were said about George W. Bush. Really bad. Extreme liberals seemed happy when Chaney had heart problems; Nasty hateful things were said. Do you all remember? Probably not within selective memory. It's not just right wing extremists it's all extremists. Bolsheviks and Nazis are bookends.

Thanks for referencing Godwin's Law, which I hadn't heard of, but so applies in this discussion. And so do your comments on political partisans. Ronni, you're smart!

I heard today that the Phelps clan (AKA "Westboro Baptist Church) traded some radio air time with stations in Canada and Arizona for coming to Tucson to protest. Can't help but wonder if they were a bit frightened of Arizonans protecting their own!

I had to correct myself after I shot my mouth off in an emotional reaction to the incident in Tuscon in Facebook. I was blaming the hate rhetoric. It is too easy to react and lower oneself in the process. I regretted writing it later.

In reading again about it here, I think you are right, Ronni, we all need to take it down a notch occasionally and make sure we are not becoming the thing that we hate. I recall, too, hearing a lot of embarrassing hate mongering from liberals when GW was president and none of that talk helped anyone move forward in any way. It just dispersed the focused efforts and fueled the fires of fear and hysteria in everyone.

I am so sad for the people who were there at that ironically named Safeway. I feel they took a bullet for all of us. I think we all should consider taking responsibility in our own way and learn from the incident.

I live in Tucson and have read and heard much about this issue. My concern is the community services for people with mental illness was cut from the budget last year. Arizona is one of the worst states when it comes to mental health service delivery. I can't help but think this tragedy might have been forestalled if there had been services available to a person who gave many indications he was falling apart.

Also for all the people who said it isn't me that is responsible it's someone else. Stop being so defensive and pay attention. Less talk and more listening to people's heartfelt concerns about the mean spirit prevalent in public discourse.

I think Limbaugh's ugly comments about lead poisoning are referring to his fond remembrances of Stalinist Russia. The only group even close to being considered American that would engage in this kind of unlawful action was the Mafia and gangland hoodlums like Al Capone

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