On Saturday, I wrote about an image Sarah Palin used on her political action committee Web site which depicted, what I would call, cross hairs. It states that they are “targeting” 20 House seats held by Democrats. The Congressmen holding those seats were all named, including Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
On Sunday—a day after Jared Loughner was arrested as the only suspect in the Tucson, AZ shooting spree—an aide for Sarah Palin took to the airwaves of conservative radio trying to distance the former vice presidential candidate and her political action committee, SarahPAC, from the cross hairs controversy.
Palin’s aide, Rebecca Mansour, told radio host Tammy Bruce that the images used on the graphic were “never, ever, ever intended” to be gunsights. Mansour stated that the marks were, “simply crosshairs like you see on maps.” The radio host then went on to call them a “surveyor’s symbol,” and Mansour was quick to accept the term.
Here is a transcript from the interview:
MANSOUR: I just want to clarify again, and maybe it wasn’t done on the record enough by us when this came out, the graphic, is just, it’s basically — we never, ever, ever intended it to be gunsights. It was simply crosshairs like you see on maps.
BRUCE: Well, it’s a surveyor’s symbol. It’s a surveyor’s symbol.
MANSOUR: It’s a surveyor’s symbol. I just want to say this, Tammy, if I can. This graphic was done, not even done in house — we had a political graphics professional who did this for us.
However, Sarah Palin herself has never described them as such, and even when Rep. Giffords referred to them as “cross hairs” in a March 25th interview with MSNBC, Palin made no effort to call them anything else. In fact, on November 4th, just two days after the mid-term elections, she tweeted about the image in question calling the marks “bullseyes.”
Now, to be fair, in 2004, the Democratic Leadership Council used similar imagery in their push to “target” certain states where George W. Bush carried less than 10 percent of the vote. That said, this map doesn’t upset me the way Palin’s does. Why? They are speaking of states, not people. States where they want to spend more money and campaign more in an attempt to reach voters and get them to vote Democratic. Their are not names attached to the targets.
The willingness for many on the right to embrace guns and metaphors of shooting, especially among members of the Tea Party—the group Ms. Palin is an unofficial spokesperson for—is what makes images like the SarahPAC one disturbing. When “shoot ‘em up” style rhetoric becomes as ubiquitous as it has become, it permeates our culture and becomes acceptable. It doesn’t incite someone to commit an act of violence anymore than a lyric in a song or a violent scene in a movie does, but I believe it does make the act seem less atrocious in the mind of the perpetrator.
At this point, I have yet to see anything indicating that Jared Loughner was influenced by Sarah Palin or anyone in the Tea Party (for that matter, all indications seem to point to there being no major political motive at all). That’s not my point. My point is that this type of imagery and rhetoric has become far too acceptable. For instance, to some, it’s perfectly acceptable to bring loaded firearms to town hall meetings, simply because the Bill of Rights (loosely) says you can. We’ve also had someone running for the U.S. Senate constantly make inferences that citizens should use guns against their government if the vote doesn’t go their way.
And then, just today, on his Web site, Glenn Beck published an article about Saturday’s tragedy stating that we “must stand together against all violence.” However, some visitors viewed the message with an image of Beck holding an automatic pistol just to the left (not all saw the image as Beck’s Web site randomly displays different background images).
It is time for everyone to, as Jon Stewart put it while promoting his Rally to Restore Sanity, “Take it down a notch.” There will always be disappointment in your government, but we cannot start shooting elected officials because of it. There will always be disagreements between any given side of a political issue as well. We cannot let those disappointments and disagreements lead us to accepting violence. In order for this country to continue to thrive, we must talk, debate, and even argue or side with one another and with our elected officials. If we allow radical movements from either side of the aisle to prevent us from acting in this matter, than our form of government will collapse. Members of Congress cannot fear leaving their homes or the safety of Capitol Hill. Weekend meetings like the one Rep. Giffords was holding in Tucson this past Saturday are crucial to our democracy. Hopefully, if nothing else, this tragic incident can teach us all that.