Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Conversations and Ruminations Post-Massacre

"Love Will Tear Us Apart."
- Joy Division

I get really heated about politics because I see policy as an important (though not THE most important) way to protect and love my neighbors - a cause that I believe that Jesus has called all of his followers to. Actually, that's not why I'm heated about it. That's why I think it's necessary, but I'm actually angry and/or deeply disappointed that so many fellow American Christians have a total disconnect between policy that would best serve "the least of these" and what they perceive as the Kingdom of Heaven - which they see as merely a place you go after you die.

Conversation, NYC, 1970photo © 1970 Dave Gilbert | more info (via: Wylio)
Of course, I also have many friends whom I disagree with merely on how to apply policy to best serve the needs of the whole community. And I love talking with them, and having policy discussions, and discovering the truth behind the typical talking points. I learn a lot from them, I sharpen my thoughts and begin to view those I disagree with (those supposedly on the other end of the political spectrum) as every bit as human as I, and I begin to drop my guard and give them credit where credit is due. I like to think they also benefit from debating with me.

The problem, however, is that oftentimes we get caught up in the waves of rhetoric that surround us on all sides. We can't help it fully. We don't live in vacuums. Even trying to talk about scaling back the rhetoric looks, to some thoughtful people, at this time like an attack on groups of people - or as if I were saying that the massacre happened as a result of some pundit's foolish talk.*

It helps, as friend Carson notes and Jon Stewart held a rally to promote, to buttress our opinions and statements to bring the tone down, of course. But, noticing some of the comments on Carson's post, changing your tone doesn't work when you're dealing with the tone-deaf...

Which is what's happening in much of the media. I commend Keith Olbermann for pledging to scale back (from what I've heard, he did not use the infamous/famous "Worst Person in the World" line and calling the health care travesty in Arizona the "AZ Death Panel" - at least through Monday night), but for how long will this last?

While I was on the treadmill this morning, I noticed that CNN was showing the Congressional memorial for the victims at least through Minority Leader Pelosi's speech as well as Majority Leader Cantor's. Fox News, on the other hand, was using the opportunity to give Palin free reign to defend her despicable, violent speech (it's free speech, apparently, and you can't criticize it as long as it's hers... That's what the Constitution says, don'tchaknow?).

Truly, I want to be in a space where I can continue to dialog with my friends. But this country is toxic right now. It doesn't have to be. We can choose to turn away the hateful rhetoric. We can tell Congress that we can no longer afford to

Or, we can forget about living in The Greatest Country in the World (one of plurality of ideas and cultures) and move into our gated tribal "communities" based on social/racial/political/class/religious tests. Unless that's what we're already in?

*The point that most of my progressive friends are making when bringing up the rhetoric debate is that it leads to a poisonous environment, not that it was directly involved in the shooting. But nuances sometimes fail.


  1. I was trying to get this very same message across to the moderators on the Christian Left and they temporarily banned me from their website. I felt that they were getting too self righteous and putting up post after post against the right wing and Palin for their rhetoric. I was trying to get the message across that we Liberal Christians contribute to the incendiary rhetoric too.There is nothing wrong with pointing out injustice, but we can contribute to the poisonous environment just by the way we respond.

  2. Yes. One of my friends was banned from there as well, and I had taken a temporary leave of absence. Some of my friends are moderators there, but I think they're trying to counter the toxicity that the Religious Right has dumped on the landscape the last thirty years - and it's near impossible to do that without becoming victims of that negativity yourself. I often fail in this regard and I'm - again - grateful for those friends and family members who keep me honest.

  3. But there's something else that you reminded me of and that I neglected to include on this rumination: Villainizing the opposition isn't just easy to do (especially when they ARE villains) and it may or may not be moral (I think that has to do with not only how we respond, but what is so wrong about how that person acts), but it's certainly a nifty way to mobilize your base.

    Witness the difference between how MLK and the SLCC did in the South against villains like Bull Connor and how he did in equally segregated Chicago when Daley refused to engage him (though he sent his minions...).

    The trick is using such mobilizing factors without succumbing to the paradox of the oppressive liberator, so to speak.

  4. My main point with TCL was that while there are times that call for speaking out against hatred and injustice, I was hoping for a forum that would reveal constructive and Christian ways to implement social justice. They do post things like that sometimes but lately, especially after the recent tragic shooting, all it has become over there is a forum for advertising how the left is so much more righteous than the right, and to me that's not healthy or Christlike. One poster I thought correctly said that they were "doing a victory dance" over the right wing pundits such as Palin being implicated for inciting violence. Certainly I find myself getting caught up in the violent rhetoric myself, but people are castigating me now for pointing out that we on the left should search our souls because we will find that we contribute to the violent atmosphere too with what we say. Maybe not to the same degree, but we do nevertheless. Time great time for the whole country to step back and take it's spiritual temperature. Anyways, thanks for the article. We can make our own justice groups into gated or tribal communities too.


Be kind. Rewind.