veronica hendrix

Veronica Hendrix

*The mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona has really set it off – that is a critical analysis of the climate of hate we live in.  Many of us were quick to rush to judgment about what motivated Jared Loughner to go on a murderous rampage. And rightfully so; the politically charged climate we live in has been a powder keg.

Many have touched on the tenuous state of our union before, I know I have and not as delicately as some have. I saw an uptick in the hate speech just as many noted after the election of President Obama.  The rhetoric was politically toxic and vitriol. In the neighbor that I grew up in words sat idle for only so long. You couldn’t expect incendiary words not to incinerate.

The health care debate and passage of healthcare reform – dubbed Obamacare in right-wing circles – was a flashpoint, a kind of premonition that all those who were on the fringe could come unhinged.

Yet political provocateurs continue to promote hate, distrust and treason with their unbridled outspokenness against our government and those in elected office.  And they think their war of words aren’t provocative and embolden.  What world are they living in?  Just like alcohol imbues you with liquid courage, rancorous political rhetoric encourages a kind of vitriol courage that makes people like Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina yell out and call President Obama a liar during a joint-session congressional speech about health care reform last year. He was censured by his colleges because it was the politically correct thing to do. But I wonder – was the off-line conversation filled with pats on the, cigars and “that-a-boys?

Jared Loughner appears to be mentally ill. At least from all accounts I’ve read about his bazaar behavior.  But all the facts are not in yet and we don’t know if there was something more than mental illness that set him off.  We many never know. It may be kept under wraps to protect national security.  What we do know is that there are many in this country who strongly believe the incivility and toxicity of political discourse in this country is a catastrophe “lying in wait.”  That is why they were so quick to lay the root cause of what happened in Tucson at the loafers and pumps of those that promulgate discord, division and divisiveness.  If the shoe fits, lock that foot in place.

The elephant in the room are those political provocateurs that have made a business out of promulgating hate, literally. The business of hate is just one of the new economies that have sprung up in this recession. And if you think it’s not, think again. Hate has rendered a lot of folks self sufficient so much so they have been able to quit their day jobs and function as pundits on television shows, bloggers and radio talk show hosts.  Some have risen to superstar, celebrity status. They have a vested interest in keeping the rancor ratcheted up. It’s their motivation. It pays and pays well too. So don’t look for them to give up their new gig without a fight. But look at the cost. They have some culpability indeed. I won’t give them a pass. But provocateur after provocateur have absolved themselves of any guilt.  Their position is: they didn’t pull the trigger; exercising their right of free speech didn’t promote the violence.

I wonder, are there other “wannabe” Jared Loughners out there who have been lying in wait to be awakened or galvanized  by an event or cause?  Will the Tucson shootings embolden those tittering on the edge with vitriol courage as provocateurs continue to defend the toxic rhetoric, unapologetically?  In the words of a unnamed celebrity politician, “You betcha.”

Last year the Department of Homeland Security reported an alarming surge in the number of threats against elected officials and noted the rise of right-wing extremism was  created a growing potential for violence. While their official findings gives credence to what many of us believe is true, just take the political temperature in this county – it’s pretty hot.  But is it hot enough for the pendulum swing the other way and cast those who promote hate as the real lepers in our society?

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