It was to be expected, right from the day of Barack Obama’s election as Presdient. As the Tea Party grew, it became not a question of “if” but of “when.”
Some lunatic was going to shoot a Democratic (or even moderate Republican) politician, and the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and right-wing talk show hosts would get blamed.
Well, this past Saturday a lunatic did shoot a Democratic Congresswoman, killed six others,and wounded many more. And conservatives were blamed even before the smoke cleared.
It appears that this particular murderer is too weird to be pigeon-holed ideologically.
But I admit that, upon hearing the news that a Democratic Congresswoman was shot (and before I heard that it was a much larger spree), my first thought was that it was a far-right nut job.
I suspect even many conservatives suspected the same thing. They understand there are violent, unbalanced nut jobs on The Right. It’s also true that a movement like the Tea Party would also attract fringe elements, and the media tends to blur the distinctions between the reasonable and extreme.
That said, why do we tend to assume that someone on the Right is more likely to do this kind of deed than someone on the Left?
Because the Far Right tends to invite it. Rumors of generals wanting to overthrow JFK for being “soft on communism,” KKK violence, and death threats against gays and atheists all tend to give the public the impression that the “fascistic” Far Right is inherently violent.
Likewise, because of people like Timothy McVeigh, they associate the “anti-government” Far Right with violence.
By anti-government, I do not mean libertarian. Libertarianism is a political philosophy, whereas “anti-governmentalism” is just a series of grievances, resentments and hatreds without a coherent philosophy.
It’s the domestic equivalent of foreign anti-Americanism.
And as many fear that foreign anti-Americans will commit terror, for the same reasons they fear that anti-government Americans may commit terror or assassination. Homeland Security has helped fuel this notion, and has smeared supporters of Ron Paul, the Libertarian Party, and the Constitution Party because of it.
In any case, it is disingenuous to say that “anti-government” rhetoric by a talk show host will push some violent wacko over the edge. It is far more likely that it is the government’s actions that will push him over the edge.
On Saturday, my first thought was that this shooter may be from the anti-government Tea Party fringe who may have been angry over something like last year’s vote on Obamacare.
But why would someone want to commit violence like that?
Probably because he’s crazy. One can be anti-government without resorting to violence, just as one can be anti-American without becoming a terrorist.
The violence is wrong. Everyone understands that. But when the grievances are deeply-felt, and when they are legitimate, a violent response by an already-unstable person is unsurprising.
I imagine that if I was born and raised in the Middle East, North Africa, or Central Asia, I would come to believe that the American government was on a Crusade to stamp out Islam and rule the world. I would be anti-American.
That doesn’t mean I would commit acts of terror. It does mean that I would at least understand why some people would fall off the deep end because of American foreign policy. It’s known as blowback.
That same thinking applies within America as well. Healthcare reforms such as the individual mandate to purchase health insurance is totalitarian. The IRS has ruined a lot of innocent people. Gun laws and drug laws do violate our very rights to life and to control our own bodies. Instead of protecting our rights and property, the Federal State attacks them with impunity.
It’s enough to push marginally stable people over the edge. Yes, their violence must always be condemned. The terrorist – foreign or home-grown – should be punished to the full extent of the law.
But let’s never forget that their grievances are often rational and legitimate, even as their viiolent responses are irrational and evil.
If the U.S. government stopped meddling in other nations, and reduced its size, scope, and power at home, we would be far more secure from both foreign and domestic terrorism.