Wednesday, January 12, 2011

how do you get there from here?

news coverage of the tuscon shootings seems to have devolved into a referendum on sarah palin.

a USAtoday story leads with the results of a survey that found that most of those polled don't hold the incendiary rhetoric of demagogues like palin responsible for motivating or inspiring jared lee loughren in his ballistic rampage on saturday.

nor does the public feel that more restrictive gun laws would have made any difference in preventing the shootings.

graphic for the story: a photo of sarah palin.

there a several threads worth following here, but a couple jump out: first is, are the people who were interviewed living on the same planet as loughner? or are they simply in denial? more than likely, i believe that their response is the same as it's always been regarding palin: they feel sorry for her. when mccain plucked her out of obscurity and brought her on board to fibrillate his dying campaign, people in their millions responded with sympathy for the obviously incompetent being subjected to such harsh criticism.

since the congresswoman is in no kind of shape to speak on her own behalf, sarah palin seems to have assumed the role of victim herself. the bulls-eyes or "surveyors marks" seem to have lost any sort of evocative power as symbols, compared with the whiny lady in red crying about "blood libel" (like she even understands the expression).

but it's all right. americans are living increasingly in a world where harsh truths are discarded, and self-pity is the salve for our bruised consciences. i think the sympathy for palin is a way for a hard-hearted, narcotized public to deny its own culpability for a creating and accepting a social order that's spinning out of control.

another possibility is that the public is simply too intellectually lazy to make an honest attempt to parse out the cause and effect relationship between caustic speech and receptive, diseased minds. the american public is reputed -- if only in politicians' july 4th speeches -- to possess some inerrant sense of right and wrong, and so surveys such as this -- whose methodology we know nothing about -- are taken as vindication of our inherent goodness and decency, when it's actually a case of our depravity and indifference that are most clearly highlighted.

that's okay, though. you can kick the can down the road, but eventually reality will intrude -- and we'll have to accept it, unpleasant as it will be.

i note, for example, that this same wise and decent american public has told pollsters that it is against congress raising the debt ceiling again. good or bad, the public has no idea what it means when the government can no longer borrow money to finance its day-to-day operations, and all the government programs they depend on -- but don't even recognize as government programs -- suddenly cease to function. it might be a real awakening to a lot of people when they find that their actions have real consequences that affect them!

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