Monday, 10 January 2011

If you are influential, you have to be responsible.

Sarah Palin and other well known and popular right wing firebrands did not explicitly instruct a young man to kill half a dozen people in Arizona at the weekend. What they are responsible for, is their efforts in creating an environment that polarises those with different views and opinions.

Most will have seen the graphic, produced by Sarah Palin, of a list of Congressmen and Congresswomen that she wanted to target, indicated by cross-hairs over their districts. Personally, I don't really think it is the worst thing to have come from that particular politician. What I have always disliked most about her rhetoric is the superior and moralistic nature of it. She talks about the need to take back America for Americans. Because clearly, if you don't agree with her, you're not an American. She talks about the people taking back power. Because obviously it was usurped from the people by rouge elements.

It is this kind of talk that I worry about. Such language is aggressive. There is room for aggressiveness in politics but that aggressiveness should be applied to pursing policies and recruiting activists, not to generating hate of your opponents. By demonising the other side in this way it amplifies the healthy mistrust of your opponent into outright hatred. Instead of seeing a politician on the other side as someone who is trying to do what they genuinely think is best for the country, albeit with a different view than yours, what people start to see is an evil agent of unwanted change who wishes to destroy the country they love.

When you get to that level of polarisation, it really does start to become like a war between one side and the other and the natural progression for that is violence. People who are easily influence &, who feel like they have little chance of making a difference but are desperate to do so are vulnerable in such an environment. They hear the constant calls for action, for overthrow of the regime and for the people to rise up (metaphorically, of course) against those who would destroy the country. Is it little wonder that someone decided to do just that?

Those in the Tea Party and on the fringes of the Republican Party have every right to campaign for the change they believe is required, and they have every right to be passionate about it. What they must remember though, is that they have a huge influence of people and the burden of that influence is that they must show some responsibility. The people they dislike, the people they want to see removed from office, the people who belong to the party that they hate are still, despite their differences; people. American people at that.

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