Patrick Garry
A shameful exploitation
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By Patrick Garry
January 11, 2011

There is only one thing that at this time should be said about the shootings in Arizona. It is a horrible act of evil, in which the lives of 6 innocent people were taken and 14 other persons were injured. The entire nation should mourn these deaths and injuries.

The only thing worse than neglecting this horrific act of violence would be to exploit it for some kind of political gain — to deliberately distort the truth so as to shamelessly use this event as a manufactured weapon in an assault of political accusations. But this is just what certain prominent liberals have done.

The accusation has been made, with absolutely no proof (indeed, the proof that exists contradicts these accusations), that the shootings in Arizona are the result of conservative ideas voiced during the 2010 campaign. That conservatives like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are responsible for these shootings. That Fox News is to blame for creating a toxic culture that made such an act of violence inevitable. The makers of these accusations didn't even wait until after the funerals of the murdered victims. They didn't even wait until the grieving families had been given time to mourn. Instead, they callously used the shootings in a selfish attempt to dishonestly discredit the entire conservative message as a hateful and divisive ideology.

And it's conservatives who are supposed to be divisive?

But these accusations are not new. Liberals did the same thing after the Oklahoma City bombing, which they blamed on the policies and rhetoric of the new Republican Congress. I guess the lesson is that when Democrats lose the House of Representatives, they are going to blame just about every evil on conservatives. And that is exactly what these latest accusations represent: a shameless exploitation of the deaths of six persons for the purpose of taking one last sore-loser shot in a campaign that ended two months ago.

Apparently, to liberals, there is nothing more evil and violent than the articulation of the historic values and ideals on which America was founded. Apparently, the argument that we should return to the Framers' concept of limited government is, to liberals, a divisive argument that contributes to a violent and hateful society. Apparently, to liberals, any political opposition to their programs and policies can only be based on an irrational anger and hate. Apparently, to liberals, the best society would be one in which the only voice belonged to the left.

It is so ironic that liberals accuse conservatives of divisive, angry rhetoric. It is the left that constantly invokes the name of Hitler when describing its political opponents. Without hesitation, the left accuses its opponents of being racists or Nazis or sexists or homophobes or torturers. Just recall all the slanders hurled against Former Speaker Gingrich, President Bush, Vice President Cheney — and yes, even General Patraeus.

In truth, liberals don't espouse a tolerant and civil discourse. They want a one-sided discourse. They want a discourse devoid of opposition to them. They accuse their opponents of hateful and divisive discourse as a way of censoring them. That's what political correctness is all about — an intolerant attempt to silence dissenting ideas.

These most recent liberal accusations against conservatives are not only self-serving and hypocritical, but disingenuous as well. For decades, ever since the 1960s, conservatives have been criticizing the breakdown of American culture and society. But this criticism has been belittled by liberals, who claim conservatives are simply intolerant of change. Conservatives have long warned about the destructive social effects of family breakdown and the social fragmentation caused by excessive individualism. Yet despite having consistently dismissed these warnings, the left is now suddenly concerned with the civility and harmony of society.

The irony is that the left now preaches for civility and harmony in society when the very foundations of modern liberalism lay in social rebellion and confrontational politics. As instigators of the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the left waged war (yes, that was the word it used — war) on the social "establishment." It sought to undermine all the traditional values on which American culture had been built. It tried to erode the authority of social institutions like the family and religion that had for centuries created a society based on respect for values transcending mere individual desire. The left used the social revolution of the 1960s to undermine all social authority and to usher in the "Me Decade" of the 1970s. And now they have the brazenness to accuse conservative rhetoric about limited government of creating a divisive culture?

This brazenness is even more blatant given the left's support of the toxic media culture that celebrates violence and social callousness. The left is so suddenly concerned with our social discourse, even though it continues to defend the most violent of video games being sold to underage children.

There are problems with modern society and culture. Conservatives have been talking about this for decades. And indeed, the political exploitation of the shooting deaths of six persons is a prime example of this breakdown. But these problems can't be cured by false and hypocritical accusations aimed at censoring one's opponents. If liberals are truly concerned with the breakdown of modern culture, they should join conservatives in exploring how to revive and strengthen the traditional foundations of society that made America the most vibrant and prosperous nation on earth.

© Patrick Garry

 

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Patrick Garry

Patrick Garry is a professor of law at the University of South Dakota, and Director of the Hagemann Center for Legal & Public Policy Research... (more)

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