We do not need a call for civility; we need a change in the very culture of our country.
As I watch the news in horror as the details trickled in on Saturday, it was immediately clear to me that the vitriol of politics had come to a tragic head. I was not taken back to hear Tucson’s sheriff reach that conclusion. I was pleased, but surprised that he voiced it his concerns, in such a political climate. I applaud his tenacity and his passion.
I too am appalled at the incivility of our political culture. Politicians do not think twice of declaring war on each other or slandering each other’s names and reputations. Rep. Gifford’s congressional district is a prime example. The parties moved in before the election, throw their bombs, pollute the airways, and litter their propaganda under every doormat, windshield wiper and mailbox, hoping that their half-truths resonate with voters. When the elections over, they walk away from the burning ruins and don’t look back, often leaving a very angry, incensed, politically charged public. For those mentally unstable, who have no sense of gain or progress, they are left with despair and a sense that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Couple this with nonstop radio and televisions voices echoing their angst and unanswered condemnation, the momentum grows into hatred and the need for vindication and even necessary bloodshed for the very disturbed.
I can recall my mother’s advice that you should never talk about politics or religion at family or other group events. Sometimes that was the rule for whole households. Nevertheless, those days are gone. Today, few know how to hold their tongue and keep their opinions to themselves. Fewer remember the lost art form of how to agree to disagree. The greatest change in our culture that I have noticed is the lack of tolerance of the difference in political views and/or affiliation. I cannot count the number of arguments that I have encountered with just family members about my political affiliation. It has become commonplace to choose or reject friends or acquaintances solely on political affiliations. I have heard people say, that I was “one of them,” as to surmise that I was now “the enemy” or evil upon learning my political affiliation or hearing my opinions.
On Saturday, my husband and I tied to recall when this cultural change in our country began. My earliest recollection was during the early 1990’s. I began listening to that new person on the radio, Rush Limbaugh. I was a fan. I was amazed at his ability to bring people together. At that time, we were at war with Iraq. I still remember the catchy song that he played in between commercials. CNN provided the first ever moment-by-moment events of the war. America came together and it was we vs. them, the US vs. Iraq. However, after the war, that changed. It was no longer US vs. Iraq, it was still us versus them, but it was republican against democrat, it was good against evil. It was all that was good and decent vs. Bill Clinton! I heard every conceivable conspiracy theory that grew legs on that show. I began to notice that Mr. Limbaugh’s callers quit treating him like a talk show host, but more like God. And he liked it. The more he liked it, the more insulting it became, the more divided our country seemed to be. I had to quit listening. Nevertheless, the talk did not stop because this talk made Mr. Limbaugh a millionaire. Others wanted a piece of that and have tried to take a bite out of Mr. Limbaugh’s audience, and now have their own followers and many have become very rich around the business of nasty insults and personal attacks on American politicians. Then it grew from radio to television. Whole networks and programs dedicated to antagonistic aggression against Americans that espouse political views other than their own. We have all seen the multiple split screens and all the guests are shouting above each other for the entire segment. Good grief, there was a day that a network would have never considered such a program, nor would they promote Americans who can’t stand other Americans.
I understand today that Rush Limbaugh said that the Democrats are trying to politicize the outcome of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gifford. The push back from the radio and television personalities that deny their venomous rhetoric, which infused into their audiences, continues to have an effect on those who are emotionally and/mentally unstable is unbelievable. The whole world sees it but them?
Inciting of political violence is no less deadly than those that incite criminal behavior because of racial or religious differences. They may want continued riches, they may never-ending power and if allowed to continue in the same manner, America will continue to see bloodshed. I would agree these personalities might not have intended for such a thing to happen, but the vast majority of the unstable, who feel the need take deadly action, are in fact espousing the same theories and ideas and belief system promoted by them. Now that they are on notice, I would hope that they could be held responsible in the future.