A Moment for Contemplation

On March 26, 2010, millions of mainstream Americans grabbed their coffee and sat down to watch the morning talk show “The View.” The health care debate was raging, with fear-mongering language rising to a feverish pitch. Yet for once the hosts, liberal Joy Behar and conservative Elisabeth Hasselback, finally agreed on something – Sarah Palin’s cross hairs pamphlet had gone entirely too far.

After flashing the image on the screen showing Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) as a target, Whoopi Goldberg turned directly to the camera. “I want to put something out to the talking heads still busy inciting this. Whatever comes down from this, it’s on your hands. When you say, ‘Wipe them out,’ and sort of gently suggest that people do stuff…watch yourself, talking heads, this stuff is dangerous,” she said. Hasselback followed up her comments by saying, “I hope no one will take this literally and take this to an extreme but the chance is out there.”

The nation is now debating whether there is a connection between this vitriolic rhetoric and the attempted assassination of Giffords, in which 20 were murdered or wounded in Tucson. Institute for Policy Studies fellow Karen Dolan offers a nuanced look at this issue in her recent essay, “No Ordinary Cross Hairs” and follows up her thoughts with “Sarah Palin: Liable or Libeled?

As a country in mourning, we have a moment for contemplation. We should reflect on our ingrained culture of violence as well as our political leaders’ language. Even after the Arizona tragedy, we probably won’t see stronger gun laws, Foreign Policy In Focus co-director John Feffer predicts in World Beat, a weekly IPS newsletter. In fact, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is currently writing a bill that would allow members of Congress to carry concealed weapons in Washington, D.C.

We, as a nation, seem to breathe in the daily toxicity of hate and violence – be it through an ever increasing military budget, ever-popular shoot-‘em up video games, Internet and real life bullying or so-called leaders symbolically suggesting taking action through violence. We find ourselves living and dying by the sword.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military continues to kill 9-year-olds and other innocent people with real crosshairs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At IPS, we’ll continue to “fight” for peace and civility.