Really? Am I Just Like Wilson?

As you likely know by now, I generally don’t publish anonymous comments, and I certainly don’t respect those who write them even when I do. Other than giving to the poor, nothing I do is anonymous — if I think something needs to be said or done, then I’ll say or do it, and if I feel the need to comment on something, I feel a corresponding need to make sure it’s known that it is, indeed, Keely Emerine-Mix who is making the point. I think integrity requires that, not breathtaking courtesy.

Many of the comments I make are in public. I can’t think of a circumstance under which posting a comment to Prevailing Winds is so dicey, so fraught with risk, so likely to diminish the comment-maker’s standing, security, or social functioning, that it must be made anonymously. I have to conclude, therefore, that those who hide behind either anonymity or noms de plum are merely lacking in courage. This is more than a little ironic, given that most of my opponents are men, male supremacists, and masculinists who presume to claim courage as a primary trait of Real Men. Either that, or they attend a local congregation that requires of them a loyalty oath and restricts them with an unbelievable, and certainly ungodly, amount of de jure control.

No, I don’t like anonymous comments, not one little bit. But you knew that.

Nevertheless, I’m printing the one below, received just a day ago, because there are a couple of points I need to answer, and my response to a critic makes little sense if you don’t know what the content of his or her criticism was. If I were a betting woman, I’d wager that most of my readers agree with my valorous correspondent, which is all the more reason to answer what it is he or she says to me.

“Now that the facts about the killer are in, specifically that he is an atheist with a history of mental illness, no connections to the right (religious or otherwise) and a personal vendetta (dating back to 2007!) against Ms. Giffords (may our prayers be with her), I think a little bit of introspection on your part might be in order.

How, exactly, do your criticisms of Mr. Wilson’s contributions to the tone differ from his comments? I noticed that you didn’t specifically renounce violence against him, what makes you so different?”

Well, I’ve already made clear that my initial speculation that the shooter was someone who identified at least tangentially with Christianity was wrong, but since Brave Correspondent seems to have missed that, I’ll say it again: I thought the gunman would be someone who claimed the Christian faith, even if his beliefs, and certainly his actions, were not claimed by the Church itself. That isn’t the case, and I’m very glad to be wrong on that one.

I didn’t speculate that he was mentally ill, and while he pretty obviously is, his illness — his full recovery and restoration from which, by the way, I pray fervently — doesn’t erase other factors as motivation or provocation for the violence unleashed in Tucson. Further, analysts and commentators much wiser than I believe that his rambling screeds against the federal government, the monetary system it employs, the lack of a gold standard for currency, and the notion of obeying the law of the land are things most often heard from the extreme Right. Beyond that, I pointed out that I don’t equate mainstream conservatism with either the Tea Party, which I believe is entirely detrimental to this nation, or other more fringe-Right movements. It’s hard for me to imagine how to be more understood without adopting a tone that, while clear, would be tedious and more than a little condescending (which means “talking down to,” and by which I’m illustrating my point).

Brave Correspondent believes that Loughner’s “personal vendetta” against Congresswoman Giffords, and not the fact that she was his congressional representative, motivated him to target her. What, I’d ask, would a stranger’s “personal vendetta” against a member of Congress stem from other than the plain fact that she was part of the government he believed was controlling minds, mishandling currency, contributing to both illiteracy and misuse of vocabulary and grammar, and a representative of the “federalists” he and others needn’t obey? Had she cut him off in traffic? Did her dog poop on his lawn? Or did this profoundly ill young man respond badly to a toxic political environment that demonizes government and dehumanizes those who are a part of it — regardless of his own personal politics, even though themes of his ramblings tend to echo some of the weird-Right rhetoric in a media-saturated nation.

The picture that emerges of Jared Lee Loughner is not of a Timothy McVeigh-like conscious, and consciously evil, soldier of the Right. He is, rather, a young man attracted to some of the stranger thoughts from that end of the spectrum who, I truly believe, had become mentally ill in an environment that carelessly jokes about assassinations and violence — one that trades easily in paranoia, bigotry, distortion, division, suspicion, and conspiracy as it careens through the media and burns a path through the electorate. I cannot apologize for continuing to believe that that dangerous and ugly rhetoric is largely — not solely, but largely — blasting from one side of the political spectrum. If the gunman’s illness of mind contributed more to his actions than his political allegiance of heart, he nonetheless did literally what far too many on the Right suggest figuratively, metaphorically, and recklessly. Witness Tea Party poster woman Sharron Angle’s speculation that it might be time for Americans to re-examine the use of firearms, as she says is guaranteed by the Second Amendment, to bring about revolution.

To put it another way, Jared Lee Loughner was sitting on a powder keg and giving off sparks. If his mental state gave off the sparks, it seems to me clear that any voice that dehumanizes and demonizes public servants, our government, and their political opponents provided the powder keg on which he perched. Those voices and images, from the Left or the Right, helped set the stage. But across the nation, and certainly in Moscow, it is more likely that those voices and images find their home on a particular side of the spectrum. That it’s the side that most commonly claims to follow and represent Christ Jesus is an unspeakable tragedy, and it’s beyond me why Christ’s people on the Right would rather criticize their brethren on the Left for the rebuke instead of honestly examining whence comes this curious tendency to use violent imagery to make political points, or ghastly humor to diminish those who disagree with them.

3 Responses to “Really? Am I Just Like Wilson?”

  1. Ashwin says:

    If people are to censor themselves for fear that their words might incite madmen to do mad things we might all just as well take a vow of silence.

    It is best if we speak civilly to each other – but it is not a requirement. The requirement is that each one be allowed to speak his/her mind.

    You may not – MAY NOT – stifle that freedom by dangling the sword of the consequences of that speech over peoples’ heads.

    The man who killed that politician was a madman. And who knows what will drive a madman to action? What if he had been provoked by a reading of Orwell? Do you propose to ban him too?

  2. First of all, Loughner did not kill “a politician,” although he did kill a judge and wounded someone who epitomizes the term “public servant,” a phrase I’ve never heard used by those I criticize in describing their political opponents.

    Second, it IS a requirement that people who say they follow and serve Christ Jesus speak civilly to each other. That’s not my idea, but the Lord’s. If you find that unreasonably restrictive, I might suggest that you seek his counsel on it.

    Finally, for someone who regularly jumps on me for the things I say, things that while strong are neither unfair nor unprovoked, it seems odd to me that you would suggest something like “you MAY NOT stifle that freedom of dangling the sword of the consequences of that speech over peoples’ heads.”

    Both Wilson and Courtney have said things that are inexcusable, inflammatory, and inexplicably ugly for ministers of the Gospel. Of course they’re free to in a civil liberties sense, and I don’t propose that they be silenced. I do propose that they be rebuked when they sin, and when I do so, it’s with great and prayerful hope for their repentance. I will add to those prayers clarity of mind for you.

    Keely

  3. Ashwin says:

    I always appreciate your prayers.

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