Posted by: Michael George Daniel | January 12, 2011

Politicizing Palin

I read with some interest various comments and debates about the role of political advertising – specifically that sponsored by Sarah Palin – relating the use of gun images to a role in the horrific events in Tucson, Arizona this week in which a gunman shot 20 people, including U.S. Representative. Gabrielle Giffords. Thirteen others were also wounded and six people killed, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

There are two common schools of thought in the discourse. One, that the gun references employed by Palin’s advertising contributed to an atmosphere of violence that facilitated the event’s genesis. The argument most often offered in contrast to this idea is that these thoughts are an unfair ‘politicization’ of the tragedy itself.

First, let’s be clear, I consider myself a ‘Radical Liberal’. I use this term because of my increasing sensitivity to the frames of reference that are prevalent in the world, our culture, and our collective consciousness  – both today and always – that are ultimately controlling in terms of our rational ideas and discourse. I inherently have a bias against typical conservative values that argue for the benefit of extending the status quo, or of returning to a former version of it reflected in the continued faith in current structures, systems and institutions. This view is unproductive when one begins to understand the nature of the challenges facing the world today as resulting from deep elements of these very structures, systems and institutions. Thus emerges the idea of structural change being needed to address rampant problems in the realms of social, economic and environment justice. Moreover, while these terms are the best available, at least to me at this time, I want to be clear that the word justice applies to all of creation – all living things and ecological systems  – ultimately all form and even the embodiment of spirit in that form. My point is that if we delve into ideas about justice, it is important to be open to understanding it beyond simply the human  realm.

So based on the above comments, one might begin to understand why the term Radical Liberal seems fitting in my self description. Which brings us to the corollary of political liberalism that is offered today as a counterpoint to political conservatism. Unfortunately, the discourse of the liberal left is inside of the very systems, structures and institutions that represent the most embedded aspects of the world’s challenges. These ideas immersed in the status quo, then, tend to strengthen the very foundations of the problems to which they would respond. As such, politically liberal ideas offer little or no vision into the kind of change that is needed to restore ‘justice’ in the sense described above. And, just one more point further to my efforts at disclosure here;

it should be said that the current level of injustice is a threat to all of life on the Earth right now. Given the overshoot of population, the convergence of peak resource issues including energy, commodities, debt and pollution loading of the Earth’s ecosystems, and the enormous inertia inherent in these issues, it is fair to say that there is an unfathomable level of urgency with regard to restoring this comprehensive ‘justice’.

All of that as a context for the simple point of this blog, which is to say that the event in Tucson was a political event. So the objection that inquiry and discourse about the connection between Republican advertising sponsored by Sarah Palin using gun images, and the violence unleashed in Arizona is an unfair politicization of the tragedy, is not accurate. The event was political to begin with. The advertising in question is political. The personality involved is a political one with a clear record of engagement on this very topic. In fact, one of the victims,  Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, pointed out in a television interview on March 25, 2010 that the advertising sponsored by Sarah Palin involved gun sights over ‘targeted’ districts and that there are consequences from this kind of imagery. So engaging in discussion about this event and possibly contributing factors is not ‘politicizing’. This should not be a reason to avoid raising awareness about the deeper conditions that give rise to the kind of tragic event that occurred in Tucson – particularly when the events are so clearly political.

But the fact is, political discussion by its nature will not address injustice as it has been defined in this discussion. In fact, one of the elements of this blog is to suggest that there is a role for the concept of spirituality in all of this to the extent that it is supportive of a shifting of consciousness and the ability to envision a world – systems, structures and institutions – different from those to which we have become so accustomed as to prevent our ability from seeing, and thus ‘saving’ our selves; or at least, from actually addressing injustice. To bring this simply around full circle, the Tucson event and the violence associated with it, are aspects of deep, genuine injustice. I won’t go so far as to say that violence is exclusively unjust. It is perhaps more enlivening, more constructive to say that the conversation ultimately needs to hinge on whether our thoughts, words and actions are supportive of justice, in the deepest sense, or injustice. So I would ask, is the senseless killing supportive of justice? Are advertising campaigns using violent references, such as the idea of ‘reloading’, or gun images, whether promulgated by Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, supportive of justice? If not, then how can we shift our thoughts, words and actions toward those that nurture the kind of justice to which I allude?

But what is politics anyway? From Wikipedia, it is “a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs. It also refers to behavior within civil governments, but politics has been observed in other group interactions, including corporate, academic, and religious institutions. It consists of “social relations involving authority or power[1] and refers to the regulation of public affairs within a political unit,[2] and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy.[3]”

While this definition opens up a whole realm of discussion about our collective consciousness and its ability to collectively make decisions, one thing that is clear – politicizing events like the one in Tucson – in fact any event that involves us collectively, is not unfair or inappropriate.

Anyone that offers up the argument that the event in Tucson shouldn’t be ‘politicized’ is just plain wrong.


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