17 January 2011

Ed Felien : Words Have Consequences

Words have consequences:
Political rhetoric and the attempted
assassination of Gabrielle Giffords

By Ed Felien / The Rag Blog / January 17, 2011

Gabrielle Giffords had just won her reelection in a race so tight it took three days to count the votes. Her opponent, Jesse Kelly, a Republican candidate with Tea Party backing, assailed her on health care and immigration. He attacked her for supporting the stimulus package.

Jim Nintzel in the Tucson Weekly quoted him on Feb 18:

“It must stop now," says Kelly, who promises to not seek any federal earmarks if he defeats Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in November. "This is bribery with taxpayer money, and it's a disgrace."

Kelly dismisses any notion that federal spending helps the economy.

“Government is not a job-creator," Kelly said last week at a debate with his fellow Republican candidates, including state Sen. Jonathan Paton and political newcomers Brian Miller and Andy Goss. "It is a job-crusher."

But for Don Kelly Construction, the firm where Kelly manages pipeline projects, government funding would appear to create quite a few jobs.

Kelly himself estimates that close to 90 percent of the firm's work comes from government contracts worth tens of millions of dollars. And around the country, the firm -- which is owned by Kelly's father, Don Kelly -- frequently bids on public-works projects funded by both stimulus dollars and federal earmarks.
Kelly was supported in his campaign by ALIPAC (Americans for Legal Immigration PAC). John McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said of the group, "It is backed by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and anti-Semites."

He was also supported by Sarah Palin. She appeared with him on Fox News and said, “I don’t feel worthy to lace his combat boots.” Giffords’ Congressional District was one of 20 Democratic districts that McCain carried in 2008 where the incumbent voted for health care reform.

On her website Palin said, "We'll aim for these races and many others. This is just the first salvo in a fight to elect people across the nation who will bring common sense to Washington." Their districts were on a U. S. map located by crosshairs. After the shooting Palin’s campaign denied the crosshairs were meant to appear as targets, even though she had also said on March 23, “Don’t Retreat, Instead, RELOAD!”

The imagery and the rhetoric is clear, and it’s consistent with Republican rhetoric throughout the 2010 campaign:

Robert Lowry, Republican candidate in Florida, fired at a target with his opponent’s initials written on it.

Representative Allen West’s first choice for chief of staff, Joyce Kaufman, said, “If ballots don’t work, bullets will.”

Sharron Angle talked about 2nd Amendment remedies in her race against Harry Reid in Nevada. Michele Bachman said she wanted her supporters “armed and dangerous.”

John Boehner and Eric Cantor referred to health care reform as “Job Killing Obamacare.”

And Jesse Kelly held a fundraiser in June where he advertised: “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.” Minimum donation: $50.

Just last April, former President Bill Clinton recommended that both the media and politicians be responsible with their rhetoric since it falls on the “serious and the delirious alike.”

Henry David Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” The appeal of war is the promise of glory and meaning in men’s eyes: one desperate act and the world crowns you a hero. How tempting then to run to the head of the mob and storm the barricades. All revolutionary camps are a haven for malcontents.

And the Tea Party pretends it is a revolution with earnest patriots dressed in 18th Century tri-cornered hats, manipulated so cleverly by the Koch brothers, the Bush family, and Dick Armey for the benefit of the rich and powerful. It is a fraud perpetrated on the poor.

And Jesse Kelly is a party to the fraud. He campaigns mightily against the Stimulus and the Government, and his family collects millions in federal contracts. He pretends he is a revolutionary at the barricades. According to the Jan. 11 New York Times: “These people who think they are better than us, they look down on us every single day and tell us what kind of health care to buy,” he said at a rally in October. “And if you dare to stand up to the government they call us a mob. We’re about to show them what a mob looks like.”

Jared Loughner was not a mob. He was one pathetic deranged individual, but, because of the heated rhetoric of Jesse Kelly, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Michele Bachman, and others in the Republican Party, he could delude himself into thinking he was (for one shining moment) the leader of a revolution. There probably is a revolution going on out there, but it seems we’re all on the wrong side.

The grand nineteenth century capitalist, Jay Gould, once said, "I can hire one-half the working class to kill the other half."

How did they succeed in getting us to take up arms against each other and not against them?

[Ed Felien is publisher and editor of Southside Pride, a South Minneapolis monthly.]

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