What Did Sarah Palin & Accused Gunman Jared Lee Loughner Have in Common?

| January 10, 2011 | 0 Comments

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Many around the country is fed up with the reckless and irresponsible talk that some of our politicians have spewed against the current White House administration and the President of the United States. In particular, former vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin might have made the awful mistake in under estimating how significant her rhetoric was interpreted by accused Arizona killer Jared Lee Loughner.

The sad news that Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and nineteen others were gunned down in Tucson, Arizona has ignited a firestorm of conversation about guns and violent imagery in American culture. Facts continue to pour in about Jared Lee Loughner, the crazed gunchild who left a disturbing cyber trail as proof of his mental illness. It’s true that “guns don’t kill people, crazy folks do,” but this recent tragedy lends to overdue dialogue about the spreading of hatred in the public sphere, particularly in politics. The political tone of this country has become increasingly volatile following the economic crash of the Bush era, and those tensions have exploded during Obama presidency – often with overtly racist sentiments. Tea Party gatherings serve as hate rallies peppered with demonstrations portraying our President as everything from Hitler to an African witch doctor. Former half-term Alaska Governor turned reality TV star Sarah Palin and leaders the Tea Party have yet to accept any responsibility for their hate-filled campaign tactics.

For the sake of experiment, enter “hateful images, tea party” in a Google search.You’ll see dozens of pages of links, photos and video of frightening images and rhetoric used on behalf of the Tea Party and hate groups. You’ll also see a swell of bloggers, journalists, and everyday citizens voicing their concern about this topic. Bad tea-bagger behavior has existed with zero accountability, and that’s part of the bigger picture. When is enough enough, and how will mass media continue to respond now that gangster rap can no longer serve as the scapegoat for gun violence?

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If we didn’t take a minute to reflect on Palin’s reckless use of crosshairs imagery and the Arizona tragedy, we would be non-thinkers. I’m still astounded the media has given Sarah Palin a platform in the first place, but then again, I recognize the motives of the outlets providing her with airtime. What I don’t want to do is place blame with the platform I have, because I’m also responsible for my words. I’m for peace, love and understanding and I don’t condone expressions of violence. But in the same way gangster rappers have been taken to task for the violence they perpetuate in their art form, it’s apparent that aspiring politicians, real life politicians, hate groups and privately funded conservative talk show hosts do not adhere to the same standards. We’re all responsible for our actions, regardless of our color, status, political affiliation or socioeconomic circumstance. Since the Tea Party is aligned with the G.O.P., their failure to take accountability is insulting to the intelligence of the American public. I don’t believe one’s political affiliation means they condone the actions of their party all the time, and it’s sad to see human-interest issues become partisan issues. I do believe party leaders need to step up and explain the behavior of those organizations claiming affiliation.

Congresswoman Giffords was one of ten pro health care Democratic leaders targeted by protesters. In a March 2010 interview after her office was vandalized, Gifford said she wasn’t fearful – instead concerned about the heated rhetoric, calls, emails and slurs from Tea Party enthusiasts. She stressed that all community leaders should openly denounce violence. Giffords called for accountability in the interview, stating “we need to realize that the rhetoric and firing people up… for example we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district…when people do that, they have to realize there are consequences to that action”. When the interviewer reminded Congresswoman Gifford about the historical interchangeability of campaign and war rhetoric, Gifford says in the 20 30 years she and her colleagues had served as community leaders they had “never seen it this bad”.

Those who say the imagery used by camp Palin and her fellow Tea Partiers shouldn’t be analyzed are wrong. Assuming Sarah Palin or the Tea Party are in any way responsible for a mentally disturbed kid taking the lives of the innocent people is an unfair assertion, and I think most understand that. Maybe we need to revisit why weapons are so accessible to the public and start treating some of these public officials like gangster rappers. Rap stars have long been called out for violent lyrics and explicit videos. There have been protests, boycotts and public outcry from an already traumatized African American community demanding accountability from rap stars and from irresponsible media outlets. Community and Republican Party leaders need to follow suit, and do as Gabrielle Giffords requested last year; openly denounce violence. It’s imperative that Tea Partiers define their intentions and take responsibility for their use of damaging imagery.

The concerns of the anti-violent American public have fallen on deaf ears, and from the ghetto to the government, acts of violence deserve our undivided attention. We are a democracy. The act of placing twenty incumbent Democrats on a “targeted list” and highlighting their districts with crosshairs can’t go unexplained. Best believe if 50 Cent used the same imagery – and a coincidentally tragic act of horror followed – we would see a special about rappers, guns and violence on every major network. The use of violent imagery in mass media and American politics should be examined with the same gusto as gangster behavior, as the lines have become increasingly blurred. I want to offer my sincere condolences to the families of all involved.

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Hip Hop Historian and accomplished photo journalist

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