Sarah Palin’s not the only office seeker guilty of using loaded language (pardon the pun) in recent months. Not once but several times during her campaign, Sharron Angle made the statement that resorting to “Second Amendment remedies” would be an appropriate response to an election that didn’t swing in favor of the Tea Party. And Michele “Locked and Loaded” Bachmann has routinely asserted that it is the right of conservatives to “rise up” against their elected government. These voices, added to those of extreme right-wing media personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, have created a veritable fog of hostile rhetoric filled with violent imagery.
But Sarah is in a league of her own. You’d think a woman whose every twitch and twitter is duly reported by the right wing and echoed throughout the mainstream media would learn to choose her words. But what Sarah thinks, Sarah says.
On her web page, Palin literally targeted twenty House Democrats who were up for reelection by showing a map with their districts covered with the cross hairs of a weapon. Eighteen of the twenty did not return to Congress, and one got shot: Gabrielle Giffords. The headline of the widely broadcast image read, “Don’t Retreat. Reload.” The implication couldn’t be clearer. Anyone naïve enough to think there aren’t people who would take that literally doesn’t know squat about human nature.
When a mentally deranged young man literally put Gabby Giffords in the cross hairs and put a bullet through her brain, Sarah might have expressed some degree of the horror and shock felt by the rest of the country. She might have said something like this:
“It’s clear that there are legitimate questions to be asked and answered about what contributed to this deadly rampage. I do not believe that gun-related images and metaphors alone would inspire this kind of violence. But in the interest of ensuring that violent rhetoric does not spur extremists to commit violent acts, I call upon my fellow gun-rights supporters to be careful of using language that, if taken literally, would suggest that bullets should be used to settle political differences.”
But no. Not a word about toning down what every rational person in America agrees is hate speech. Rather, Sarah cast herself as the victim, a martyr comparable to Jews tortured in killed in the radical belief that they habitually murdered children.
Rather than getting defensive, the former half-governor could have used the occasion to say something socially responsible. But as with every other event that occurs in her world, this event was essentially all about Sarah.
That’s what we expect from many of our superstars. But from our public representatives—and those who claim to want to serve—we should expect a great deal more.