So here is a Sunday thinking project for you all.
Back when Denis Leary was still a stand-up comedian, he had a funny yet sadly true bit about the fact that it's only the good ones that get assassinated. This morning, as I was reading a New York Times article about the sad killing of Pakistani politician Salman Taseer by a religious extremist, I lamented to my wife the bitter irony that it is always the voices of tolerance who are the assassinated by bigots.
How was I to know that a similar thing would happen on these shores later this very day? The shooting in Tuscon is proof positive that violent extremism knows no borders in these strange days. We like to think of the kind of political violence witnessed earlier this week in Pakistan to be something that happens elsewhere, something committed by the "other." Although the ideologies underlying the extremism in Pakistan and Arizona come from different sources (the Taliban and New World Order whackos hate each other), their unthinking, violent natures are very similar. Unfortunately, so are their consequences.
We should all be shocked and apalled, but not all that surprised. The recent rhetoric and actions of political extremists and politically motivated nutcases, almost exclusively on the radical Right, should have given us ample warning. Anyone remember the mob violence and racial slurs visited upon House Democrats when they voted on the health care bill? It fell down the memory hole, but someone actually showed up at a presidential event in Arizona with an AR-15. Or how about rhetoric like "don't retreat, reload" and "2nd Amendement remedies" that we've heard recently? Or the armed whacko who was going to kill people at the TIDES Foundation? For that matter, the sadly more "successful" crazy who shot up a Unitarian church because of its liberal views? Furthermore, I'm sure you'll recall that there is a popular demogogue on a national news network who continually likens progressives to a cancer on society to be eradicated.
Years ago this same man would have been ranting on a street corner, now he is only one of many fire-breathing hate mongers with a large and highly suggestive audience hanging on every blood-dripping word. Many people in this country attack Al-Jazeera and madrassas, claiming that they abet hatred and terrorism. Perhaps, to paraphrase a man that many of these same people claim to follow, we ought to pay attention to the beam in our own eye rather than the splinter in our neighbor's.