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Monday, January 10, 2011

Congresswoman Giffords and the Cross Hairs

I find it amazing that it has become a matter of controversy to suggest that violent images, death threats, gun toting and martial exercises have consequences.  We are being told that it's just normal to use cross hairs as a political image and that Democrats do it also.  It is pointed out that Sen Joe Manchin held up again in an ad that said he opened fire on Obama's climate change legislation.   Of course he didn't threaten to open fire on Obama, but even at that, the point was to found like the Tea Party in order to pull votes from the right. 

We are told that the most plausible explanation  for our young shooters actions is his mental illness, and that we have no proof he heard any of the Tea Party ads, propaganda, news.  Therefore it must be implausible that he was influenced by them.

First of all this is a direct insult to millions of Americans who suffer from mental health problems --maybe not as severe as this young mans, but real none the less. I have worked with the mentally ill, and have mentally ill family members, and none of them ever tried to kill anyone.  Even most mentally ill people who are unstable enough to kill someone will only do so if circumstances agitate them severely. 

It is also implausible that the young man could have missed the hot and heavy political atmosphere.  It would especially have been nearly impossible for this highly political young man not to have been aware of the  automatic weapon target practice Gifford opponent held as a fundraiser complete with bellicose commentary on the pending election.  The young mans monetary theories are the same deranged monetary theories that abound on the gun toting right. His theory that the government has someone corrupted grammar comes from a far right blogger.   His reading list, except for the Communist Manifesto is the reading list of the right.  For that matter, actually Karl Marx is usually read by rightists so they can level attacks at it. 

I had an uncle who was in the John Birch Society in the early 1960's.  At that time some dissent started in John Birch/patriot movement circles that the anti-communist group really didn't do much.  An extreme form of this dissent came in a book called "Communist Skies Over America" which claimed that the Birch Society itself was a communist front. According to the book many Birch Society leaders who Masons, a secret revolutionary cabal, and therefore  the organization must be a communist front.  My uncle read the book and went to his John Birch meeting to break it up.  Soon he was out drilling with guns and practicing martial arts.  

That was the drift of a lot of the right in those days.  First well known paramilitary group was the Minute Men, headed by Robert Bolivar DePugh.  The minute men would mail out death threats in little envelopes with cross hairs and a crudely printed message. I was a 17 year old volunteer in the Santa Cruz Peace Center the day we received our cross hairs death threat, mailed from Boise, Idaho.
The threat read, " Traitors Beware. See the old man at the corner where you buy your paper? He may have a silencer equipped pistol under his coat. That extra fountain pen in the pocket of the insurance salesman that calls on you might be a cyanide-gas gun. What about your milkman? Arsenic works slow but sure. Your auto mechanic may stay up nights studying booby traps. These patriots are not going to let you take their freedom away from them. They have learned the silent knife, the strangler's cord, the target rifle that hits sparrows at 200 yards. Only their leaders restrain them. Traitors beware! Even now the cross hairs are on the back of your necks!"
The Minutemen fell apart and many right wing armed groups have come and gone since, including the Posse Comitas, the Freemen, and a multitude of militias.  Sarah Palin is quite familiar with these militias, her husband having been a member of the Alaska Independence Party, an organization tied into the Patriot/Constitutionalist movement that these militias are the armed wing of.  When she used the cross hairs, she was explicitly referring to the  Minute Men death threats.  

It may be that the connections to this young man are quite indirect, but they explain a lot more of his actions than simply the fact that he is mentally ill.   Did Oswald shoot Kennedy because he had a personality disorder, or did his associations with far right and left groups led to his action.  When John Wilkes Booth shoot Lincoln everyone knew it was his ties to the rebel movement, not his social instability and depression that caused it.  In almost every political assassination in the United States we have a mix of causes, but generally the political is the deciding factor.  We also know that assassinations are more common in periods of high political stress.  That is why we had so many of them in the 1960's.  Yes, King's killer was a wacko.  But the racism of the south motivated him.  

So we must stop making excuses for inflammatory language, actions and deeds.  The deaths in Arizona were most certain a consequnce and if we do not chsnge, there will be other consequences. 

1 comment:

  1. Ack, don't think mine came through. Good post. Did you hear "On Point" yesterday?