Monday, January 10, 2011

After Arizona: Is our debate too fiery?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 9:13 AM

The tragic shooting Saturday in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six and put Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in intensive care raises questions about the role of heated political rhetoric. Already journalists and members of Congress are engaging in a dialogue about debate between the two parties and the ways in which heated political conversation may be fueling more hatred than productivity.

Palin put the targets on the map
  • Palin put the targets on the map.

Matt Bai of The New York Times writes, "It wasn’t clear Saturday whether the alleged shooter in Tucson was motivated by any real political philosophy or by voices in his head, or perhaps by both. But it’s hard not to think he was at least partly influenced by a debate that often seems to conflate philosophical disagreement with some kind of political Armageddon."

When you hear some of the rhetoric used by certain politicians, it really makes you wonder whether they have a self-checking mechanism. Gun terminology pops up often in tea party-speak; there's the now-infamous "bullets not ballots" slogan and Sarah Palin's "No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead reload!" And many, many more.

Last year, Rep. Giffords ironically spoke about this issue on video when Palin's "cross hairs" map surfaced with contested Democratic Congressional districts marked with targets: "When people do that," she said, "they've got to realize there are consequences to those actions."

On Sunday's Meet the Press, a roundtable of Giffords' friends and colleagues discussed the issues surrounding the shooting. While they raised important points, the most compelling aspect of the conversation was seeing members of both parties engage in thoughtful dialogue about working together. Newly elected Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) had a telling freshman insight: "I saw something as I walked in this morning. I saw two members of Congress from two different sides giving each other a hug, a hug. I think ... maybe people need to, to see that more often, that even though we disagree passionately about the issues, that we can actually get along and we're actually friends."

What about your thoughts: Do you think politico-speak is too harsh? How do you feel about Colorado's political climate after the midterm elections last November?

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