By all accounts, the President hit one out of the ball park. I certainly thought so. It was eloquent, touching, inspiring, uplifting. It was pure Obama. Even the Right had to admit that he had struck the right note.
Flipping over to Fox, you got plenty of “good jobs” from the panel, albeit with the Foxonian twist: The President had taken their advice, stayed away from finger-pointing and had subtly told the Left to quiet down. Actually of course, he gingerly suggested that both sides temper their remarks.
“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost,” he said. “Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.”
This is of course lost on the Right who find themselves incapable of ever admitting that they are anything but perfectly right. In fact, this propensity is what made Palin’s remarks what one expects of her ilk, and by definition, not Presidential.
I think the President is most right of course, and many on the Left, and a very few on the Right (those who stand for principle in the face of the Tea Party onslaught), have been saying so and begging for some civility for some time.
Why isn’t it happening? Why can we not get beyond this name-calling?
It may come as no surprise that I see the problem as largely on the Right. And the problem is simply because the Right, as I have said, NEVER ever admits they have overstepped. Ever. Sarah and all her kind are always the victims of intentional smears, they are never wrong.
Many on the Left have said that Palin was not personally responsible for the events in Tucson, either directly or ever indirectly by herself. We have said that she participated in the creation of a culture of vitriol that encourages people to act out their angers and their fears. Both of these, anger and fear are the emotion of choice of Palin, Bachmann, King, Cantor, Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, and Fox in general.
I read a few days ago of a journalist from another country who had the temerity to criticize Bill O’Reilly some years ago. He was astounded, that within twenty-four hours, his education, his employment, and his ethnicity and motives were called into question by Fox. His e-mail was flooded with hate mail. At no time, he said, did O’Reilly or Fox address the fundamental criticisms he leveled.
All these extremists deal in ad hominem attack. They never respond in substance. If they did, then we could dialog.
This is what frustrates reasonable voices on the Left. If Palin, had simply acknowledged that indeed she has in the past used imagery and words that could be misconstrued and for that she was sorry, many who oppose her would have listened and approved. But she cannot do that, for the internalization of criticism is too deep, she takes it too personally. She can’t let it go. She knows of only one way and that is retaliation.
She tells herself, apparently, that no matter how reasonable she might be, the criticism would continue. That is probably true to a degree. The Left has its haters too, and nothing Palin could say or do would be good enough. But that is not true of the mainstream progressive and independent.
While patient education might change the above, the other element in why the Extremist Right cannot change their tenor, is more insidious. It’s not can’t but won’t. And they won’t because it continues to help them achieve their goals. Winning big in the 2010 mid-term elections is proof to them that hate and fear work.
I read something like this yesterday:
You can fool a few of the people all of the time, and this is Fox’s targeted audience.
The truth is, this is actually true. Fox panders to an audience that has been warned off the MSM, and all pundits and politicos that are not following the Fox agenda. It’s audience therefore never becomes informed that so much of what Fox runs is provably wrong. They don’t see the clips of their talking heads saying opposite things from days and weeks and months earlier. They are safely closeted from MSNBC, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report, as well as PBS and a plethora of middle-to-light Left commentary and journalism.
Therefore, the Fox lie works. This of course is not lost on the Extremists in the GOP. They too have learned from Fox that lying works to their base. They have come to depend on a largely uneducated, largely ignorant electorate who reads and watches only what they have given them permission to. Members of the Tea Party and GOP Extremists in general have learned the value of repeating the mantra of the day. What is the mantra for Health Care repeal?—JOB KILLING. The phrase is used by EVERYONE on the Right. No matter that it isn’t true, no matter that the CBO has projected that repeal would add billions to the deficit. They simply reply that that is an “opinion.” Is it called the Health Care Act? No it’s called Obamacare, by EVERYONE on the Right.
So in the end, I find it hard to see how the President’s call for civility can be accomplished. When Rush Limbaugh pounds the table and announces that the Democratic Party is “all for the Tucson killer” and Tom Pawlenty barely suggests that Palin’s crosshairs might be “not what he would do” before having to walk it back in the face of condemnation by Fox, then how can we take them seriously? When they are unwilling to admit any culpability in our climate of hate, it is hard to see how we talk with quiet respect to one another. When they are unwilling to condemn the hate mongers among them, how can we honor each other’s real beliefs?
If you know a way, by all means suggest it. I’m stymied.