January 8, 2011

>> Sunday, January 09, 2011

I remember I was in law school when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was blown up by a reactionary anti-governmental prick and some of his friends. I remember everybody's first thought was that the bomb must have been the result of extremists from the Middle East; it seemed, you know, like the kind of thing they might do, like the '93 World Trade Center bombing or all those embassies and discotheques in the Middle East and Europe through the '80s, only nobody could figure out what a bunch of Islamic radicals were doing in the middle of fucking Oklahoma, did they get lost, why wouldn't they try to blow up something somewhere people had heard of? (No disrespect meant to Oklahomans, but surely you know what I mean: this is part of the point of living in Oklahoma in the first place, I'd imagine, because you're millions of miles from New York City or Los Angeles or some other Very Important teeming international metropolis.)

Of course, it turned out the reason the terrorists in question had targeted Oklahoma wasn't that they were lost, it was that they were a bunch of regular old Americans with military careers and a liking for right-wing, ultraconservative politics, and they were striking at their local neighborhood heartland to make whatever stupid point they thought they were making about taxes or gun control or the significance of white people or whatever it was. The whole message thing got lost underneath the whole murdered children aspect of it, particularly, along with all the grown-ups the terrorists killed and maimed. Which is why terrorism is damned ineffectual unless your only aim is sowing chaos, but whatever; that really isn't the point of this.

The point, of course, is that something awful happened yesterday in Arizona, and there's at least one dead kid, and some dead grown-ups including a respected Federal judge, and (at this writing) a Congresswoman and several other people (it's hard to tell for sure in all the havoc and noise) are in the hospital. And since it's Arizona and since the Congresswoman was targeted by reactionaries and morons for real and symbolic violence because she's a Democrat and opposed her state's xenophobic and probably unconstitutional approach to illegal immigration, it's been easy to wonder if the usual suspects are to be blamed. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had her office broken into and ravaged and now she's been shot in the face, and it's easy to assume the events are connected. And it's easy to assume, too, that the events are connected to webpages published by or on behalf of the most irresponsible, venal, petty, ill-educated, pathetic, vain, fame-mongering, bubbleheaded, wicked woman in American politics, who published a list of twenty Americans holding public office along with a graphic, which you've surely seen, showing these Americans' approximate geographic locations marked by symbolic crosshairs; this is a woman whose rhetoric has consistently been the talk of violence and bloodshed, talk of "reloading," pathetic talk from a woman who recently made it clear on her now-canceled second-tier-cable show that she wasn't actually all that familiar with firearms and was intimidated by their recoil.

Apparently, she's feeling some heat over this, and she should. It seems her staff can't scrub the Internet of her violent rhetoric and iconography quickly enough. The most surprising part of that, really, would be the probably faulty implication the woman is capable of feeling shame, but the more likely explanation is she's afraid her 2012 campaign just died in the same state her career as a national public figure was born.

But it's too early to blame her.

Not too early to castigate her for her vile, violent, incendiary rhetoric, which was to be condemned at the instant the bits hit her Facebook page. Not too early to condemn the woman herself for being a pathetic creature in human shape, for being the kind of Nixonian political figure that led the paranoid science fiction writer Philip K. Dick to wonder if there weren't robots in our midst already and how would you tell--and to conclude that empathy was the trait that must distinguish people from monsters. (At the risk of sounding flippant at a time of sadness, I am indeed suggesting a certain political celebrity and many of her cohorts would flunk a Voigt-Kampff test, and within the first few questions.)

And her rhetoric didn't help.

But this is the day after the murders and assaults; there is one suspect in custody and police say there's another "person of interest." It may prove that this suspect, if he's guilty, and/or the "person of interest," if he or she is indeed an accomplice, are disciples of the Alaskan huntress. Or it may be that that part of it is an unfortunate coincidence. What we know is that there is a man in custody, and that there were quite a lot of webpages connected to this person, on YouTube and elsewhere, suggestive of someone who was less concerned with taxes or immigration than he was with governmental mind control via grammar and inventing a new currency, who was fixated, too, on some sort of alternative calendaring scheme for years. And that's all. He may have been motivated or enabled by the violent rhetoric of our day or he may simply have lived in Congresswoman Giffords' district and the voices in his head had enough, or it may turn out there's something else entirely going on.

But this is the time for patience and sorrow, not rage. This is the time to listen and watch, the time to put together whatever can be known, and to follow the procedures that men shaped by the Enlightenment wisely saw fit to emplace for these kinds of events: investigation, indictment, trial, and if the evidence is sufficient, sentencing pursuant to the laws of the land. Look, I'm not saying "Don't be angry," and I want that to be clear: I am saying the anger should burn at a low, chill ebb, the anger of those who thirst for truth if it can be pried from the dead jaws of the past, and for justice if it can be coaxed from the turmoil of the future.

Until we have sight of either, let's think of our lost, and of those who are grieving for them, pray for them if that's your way and hope for them if it isn't.

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