County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said it all. “We have become the
mecca for racism and bigotry,” Dupnik said of the political climate in
his state of Arizona.
Of course the sheriff was referring to the attempted assassination
of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in Tucson. Jared
Lee Loughner went on a shooting spree in front
of a grocery store, wounding at least fourteen people, including
Giffords, his intended target, and killing six, including U.S. District
Court Judge John Roll and a 9-year-old girl born on 9-11.
“Mein Kampf” was reportedly listed as one of Loughner’s favorite books.
to Dupnik, the gunman acted alone. And he said what needed to be said
about this senseless act of violence and the larger implications
for Arizona and our nation as a whole. “It’s time to
do a little soul searching about the rhetoric we hear on
the radio, how our children are being raised,” he added.
this with the empty words of Governor
Jan Brewer. Calling the shooting “this senseless and
cruel violence,” Brewer said she is “heartbroken,” adding
that “all of Arizona is shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific tragedy that
transpired this morning in Tucson.”
Now, I do not claim to know what is in Brewer’s mind, nor
do I question whether she might actually show genuine sadness
for the victims. That is not the point. Rather, Governor
Brewer is part of the problem in Arizona. And when you contribute to a harsh political climate full
of vitriol, hatred and scapegoating, your words ring hollow when you
later condemn those violent acts that climate produced.
is ground zero for hatred and intolerance in America.
Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, which allows for the racial
profiling of Latinos and those suspected of being undocumented
aliens. It is a pure public policy expression of racial
hatred and intolerance, and was drafted by an anti-immigrant
group, with input from the private prison lobby. In
Pearce, the bill’s cosponsor in the Arizona state senate, has ties to white supremacist
groups. Similar in spirit to SB 1070 is Arizona’s new ethnic studies ban, which the state
legislature passed and Brewer signed into law. The law prohibits
the teaching of Mexican-American
studies in the Tucson public schools and throughout the state - even as similar courses
in Asian, black and Native American studied remain unaffected
by the ban. Schools will lose funding if they dare to teach
Chicano studies in Arizona,
and that’s a crime unto itself.
codification of hate is made possible in a state such as
a climate of anti-immigrant sentiment emboldens those who
would take matters into their own hands. Lax gun laws don’t
exactly help things, either. Arizona allows almost everyone who passes
a federal background check to buy a gun, and a new law
allows people to carry concealed
weapons without a permit. Really?
and unscrupulous politicians such as Jan Brewer never have
to raise a fist to contribute to a climate of violence.
They don’t have to own or use a gun, or wish anyone harm.
Similarly, the Southern Dixiecrats
who hoped to preserve segregation kept their hands clean,
as did the White Citizens Councils, also known as the “white-collar
Klan.” But through their rhetoric, these
politicians gave a wink and a nod to those unbalanced, hate-filled
members of the unwashed masses who have no qualms about
using their gun to assassinate someone.
the national scene, the anti-Obama rhetoric of the Birther and Tea Party movements encourages
death threats against the President, and the carrying of
loaded weapons to Obama events. Some political candidates
such as Nevada Sharron Angle stir the pot when they call
for “Second Amendment” remedies if they don’t get what they
want. Meanwhile, some congressional lawmakers openly question
the President’s citizenship and legitimacy, dangerously
crossing the line and going far beyond an honest disagreement
has never been one unkind, angry or cross word come between
us,” said Rep.
Trent Franks (R-AZ) of his colleague Giffords. Calling the assailant “either deranged or evil beyond words”
and concluding that “someone has stepped out of bounds of
humanity,” Franks added
that Giffords is “a precious, decent human being
and this tragedy is beyond my ability to articulate. ...She
was just out there doing her job.” And
yet, while Franks certainly must appreciate the security
risks and threats of physical violence public figures face,
he has participated in venomous attacks against President
Obama. Franks called President Obama an “enemy
of humanity,” and his stance on abortion “insane” and
godless. He once demanded that Obama release his birth certificate
to prove his citizenship and eligibility to hold the office.
At a town
hall meeting, Rep. Franks said he was terrified of Obama,
and came within three days of filing an Obama citizenship
Giffords - a moderate who happens to be the
first Jewish congresswoman from Arizona
- has been no stranger to threats. Her office was vandalized,
and she received death threats after voting for the health
reform package. On her Facebook page, Sarah Palin targeted
House Democrats, including Giffords, with a map featuring 20
gun sights. Palin has been scrubbing those graphics
from her website, the way you try to put toothpaste back
in a tube. Moreover, in June 2010, Gifford’s Tea Party opponent
Jesse Kelly hosted a campaign
event to “Get on Target for Victory in November,” “Help
remove Gabrielle Giffords from office” and “Shoot a fully
automatic M15 with Jesse Kelly.” And Judge Roll was a target
of death threats from the far right, receiving 200
threatening phone calls in one afternoon.
at all of this from a purely political vantage point, the
shooting puts a crimp in the plans of Congressional Republicans.
Thriving on the politics of scapegoating, GOP lawmakers seek whipping boys to detract attention from
their conservative policies of upward wealth redistribution.
They throw red meat to uneducated whites in their base by
blaming Muslims, Mexican immigrants, gay marriage and black
and Latino homeowners for America’s woes. Before the
Giffords shooting, Republicans in Congress
started to tar and feather public unions as the cause of
our problems. And attack dog, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), had plans to vilify President
Obama, using the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
to wage a witch hunt of investigations against the administrations.
Issa is a Lebanese-American, and his party routinely depicts the President
as an Arab and Muslim terrorist.
an old saying that God don’t like ugly. Well, there’s a
lot of ugly coming out of Arizona. The state is in a bad way. In the middle
of the desert, Arizona
languishes in a sea of putrid waters. And yet, Arizona is very American.
BlackCommentator.com Executive Editor, David A. Love, JD is a journalist and human rights
advocate based in Philadelphia, is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. and a contributor to The Huffington
Post, theGrio, The Progressive
Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times and Philadelphia Independent
Media Center. He also blogs at davidalove.com, NewsOne, Daily Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.