Tucson, Politics, and Jon Stewart

I first heard about the tragedy in Tucson on Saturday morning via Twitter.  It was shocking news, but at the time I didn’t have a computer nearby and since there were conflicting reports about whether Rep. Giffords had survived, I decided to wait until later in the evening to tune in and find out what had happened.  I assumed it was an assassination attempt, maybe from the other side of the political spectrum, but most likely from someone who was just plain unbalanced.

Hours later, I went to my computer and checked Facebook and Tumblr.  There, I didn’t find statuses and posts about what had happened or who had died, but rather, pictures of Sarah Palin’s now infamous map “targeting” Democrats and other various links about politicians using gun rhetoric.  In the hours between my first hearing about it and my Facebook log-in, Sarah Palin’s name did not once cross my mind.  But all of the hoopla surrounding the shooting got me thinking.

A liberal NPR cartoonist’s take on the backlash.

It got me thinking, but not about the connection between the aforementioned Republicans and the shooting in Tucson.  I do not personally believe that Sarah Palin caused Jared Lee Loughner to shoot up that Safeway.  But much like those who choose to debate to this day whether Marilyn Manson caused two 17 and 18-year-old boys to shoot up Columbine High School, I’m certain that there will be people who debate for the next 10 years whether various politicians caused Loughner to do the same in Tucson this past weekend.

I agree with the comic above, but I also agree with the comic below.  What I really think the media’s reaction to the assassination attempt brings to light is the hostile political environment we have entered into in the past two to three years.  Without trying to place blame or draw a cause and effect situation relating to this weekend’s events, I think it’s time for politicians to reevaluate the (yes, at times violent) partisan rhetoric that has overcome our country.  Republicans and Fox News pundits are not the only ones guilty of “targeting” their opponents and labeling certain politicians as being hateful names, but they are certainly the loudest.  If I had more time, I would look into Democrats and other left-wing pundits as well, but suffice it to say I believe both sides are guilty of engaging in the current toxic political environment.

NPR comic from the other side of the spectrum.

I first began pondering the nasty nature of politics and political media a few months ago, while watching Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity. Yes, that’s right, now hear me out.  Jon Stewart is a comedian, yes.  For 8 years, he commented on the stupid things George W. Bush did.  Now, he comments instead on the stupid things Fox News and MSNBC do.  In doing so, I think he has uncovered a goldmine in terms of problems with the “toxic” nature of politics nowadays.  Check out this snippet of his closing speech at the October 30th rally.

“We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do.  We work together to get things done every damn day!

The only place we don’t is [in Washington DC] or on cable TV.  But Americans don’t live [in the Capitol] or on cable TV.  Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives.  Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—but they do it–impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.”

Given the giant stamp of approval I gave Jon Stewart after that speech, I guess it comes at no surprise that I also overwhelmingly agreed with his reaction to the Tucson tragedy. Parts may be a little redundant, given what I have already written here, but tune in at about 2:25 to hear from a man whose voice is luckily much louder than my own:

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