Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jared Loughner, Sarah Palin, James Eric Fuller, and Getting a Grip

"America: Love it or leave it."

"If you don't like it here, why don't you go back where you came from?"

If you remember when those were familiar parts of American culture, you're about my age or older: or it's being taught in whatever they're calling 'social studies' these days.

I remember the 'good old days' fairly well: and they weren't which is another topic.

As for the 'love it or leave it' thing: I think it's significant that folks are trying to break into America, and that's another topic, too.

Change Hurts, Change Happens

'love it or leave it' and 'back where you came from' reflected, I think, the frustration that some Americans felt when confronted with folks who didn't look like them, or - more to the point of this post - didn't agree with them.

I sympathize, a very little, with the red-white-and-blue-blooded 'real' Americans of my younger days. Their world was changing, fast, and they were rapidly losing the influence and status they'd enjoyed. That sort of thing can be, I think, traumatic.

Politics and Getting a Grip

This isn't, as I've written before, a political blog. Sometimes I discuss politics, since the War on Terror - or whatever the conflict is supposed to be called - is affected by politics.

And although I am generally not on the same page as America's liberals, I'm not, quite, "conservative." But I don't mind when someone identifies me as a conservative.

I think quite a few folks assume that there are only three possible philosophical positions in today's America:
  • Liberal
  • Moderate
  • Conservative
Four, counting apathy. (A Catholic Citizen in America (May 12, 2010) of those three - or four - stances are seen as the only possible options, "conservative" is often the least-unlike my views.1

Even if I was a conservative, moderate, or liberal in the contemporary American sense of the words, I hope I'd still want to make sure that:
  • My assumptions were based on facts
  • The facts were accurate
  • I distinguished between the two

Shooting Victim Arrested?

When I saw that an Arizona shooting victim was arrested - victim, not perpetrator, I thought I might be looking at a proofing glitch.

Upset? Understandable - Nuts? Maybe

Six people were killed and many more wounded in Tuscon, Arizona, Saturday before last. One of the victims of that shooting is under arrest. And undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

The Tea Party is involved.

If you're among those who assume that the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and other 'traitors' are responsible for Gabrielle Giffords being hospitalized, you probably won't like this post.

Happily, Americans who don't agree with the establishment don't have to chose between staying quiet, exile, prison, or execution. That's one of the things I like about this country. And that's not another topic.

Assumptions, Facts, and Telling the Difference

I make assumptions fairly often. I think most folks do. I assume, for example, that when I go to sleep I'll wake up again: generally in about eight hours. So far, that assumption has been a fairly close match with reality.

I try to be careful about distinguishing assumptions from facts. Partly because of my experiences.
Warning! Old Coot Reminiscing
I remember when the 'love it or leave it' bunch ranted about commie plots, rock music, and those 'hippies-college-students-and-flag-burners.' As I wrote earlier, I think some of that came from feelings of frustration. America was changing. A lot.

Time passed. I'm pretty sure that some folks in America are still quite serious when they identify those they don't like as commies. For the most part, though, I think we've moved on. I see no serious indication that America is likely to get caught up in hysterical anti-communism again. Not any time soon.

'Those crazy college students' moved on, too. Some found careers in the business world, some went into politics, and some never left campus. I'll get back to them in a bit.

Growing up in the '50s and '60s, I developed a preference for thinking with my central nervous system and feeling with my glands, not the other way around. Maybe it was all the crazy slogans I heard.

Definition Time

In the context of this post, "assumption" and "to assume" mean:
  • Assumption
    • A statement that is assumed to be true and from which a conclusion can be drawn
    • A hypothesis that is taken for granted
    • The act of assuming or taking for granted
      (Princeton's WordNet)
  • Assume
    • Take to be the case or to be true; accept without verification or proof
      (Princeton's WordNet)

Arizona, Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Jared Loughner, Facts, and Assumptions

I'm like the fellow who said, 'I only know what's in the papers.' Given what I've read in the news, it seems wildly improbable that Jared Loughner didn't pull the trigger outside that grocery in Arizona. Those dead bodies, and testimony of folks who got the gun away from him, all point to Mr. Loughner being guilty.

That people died after being perforated by bullets is, sadly, a fact. At least, I think it's extremely unlikely that reporters, politicos, and law enforcement officials lied about people being killed.

Until some whacking great piece of evidence - or a plausible alternative explanation for the facts as released - comes along, I'm assuming that Jared Loughner is guilty.

But - and this is important - that is an assumption. I don't know it as a fact.

I've discussed the assumption that conservatives are to blame for the Tucson shootings before.(January 12, 2011)

I've also discussed information gatekeepers; and the degree to which reason is in play when emotions run high:

Sarah Palin Said 'Kill Gabrielle Giffords?!'

Pima County's Sheriff Dupnik isn't the only person who assumes that conservatives - the ones who aren't decently silent about their opinions, anyway - are responsible for a half-dozen people being gunned down.

I think I may understand why so many folks assume that Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and others like them, are rabble-rousing traitors and a threat to America. For that matter, I think I may understand why another lot assumed about the same thing about 'commies, pinkos, and fellow-travelers.'

'Understanding' isn't the same as 'agreeing.'

I certainly do not agree, for example, that Sarah Palin "should be incarcerated for treason for advocating assassinating public officials." But I think I can understand what's behind that remark.

Disagreement isn't Treason

It's very easy, I think, to assume that someone who doesn't agree with you does so out of malice. Particularly if you spend most of your time with folks who do agree with you.

Remember those 'hippies-college-students-and-flag-burners' from the '60s? They're roughly my age - and a fair number have been America's information gatekeepers for quite a while now. As I said elsewhere, "boy, has 'the establishment' ever changed." (A Catholic Citizen in America (January 12, 2010))

I'm sure that there are east coast news editors who occasionally visit places in that vast expanse separating Newark and Las Vegas, Washington D.C. and Seattle. Just as I'm pretty sure that a fair number of college professors listen to something besides NPR.

But I'm also pretty sure that it's been fairly easy for someone with solid liberal credentials to stay inside their comfort zone: associating with like-minded individuals; and reading chiefly those publications with the right - or, rather, left - point of view.

No wonder, in my opinion, it's been so easy for folks steeped in America's dominant culture to "accept without verification or proof" the idea that Sarah Palin is to blame for the Tucson shootings.

Back in the '60s, I learned that someone can disagree with me and not be evil incarnate. As I said in the heading: disagreement isn't treason.

Definition Time, Again

  • Disagreement
    • A conflict of people's opinions or actions or characters
    • Difference between conflicting facts or claims or opinions
    • the speech act of disagreeing or arguing or disputing
      (Princeton's WordNet)
  • Treason
    • A crime that undermines the offender's government
    • Disloyalty by virtue of subversive behavior
    • An act of deliberate betrayal
      (Princeton's Wordnet)
It's not always called "treason." Back when political correctness was in flower, disagreement was often labeled as "hate speech" or "intolerance."

That was then, this is now.

America is changing. Just like in the '60s. And, just like in the '60s, folks who have gotten used to things the way they've 'always been' don't like it. In my opinion, anyway.

Not All Liberals are Crazy - In My Opinion

Tempting as it is to claim that James Eric Fuller is a 'typical liberal,' I don't think that's true. I hope not, anyway. He was forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation after making some - remarkable - statements:
"Arizona shooting victim James Eric Fuller remains under psychiatric observation following his arrest Saturday for threatening a Tea Party leader at a town hall meeting....

"...Pima County Sheriff spokesman Jason Ogan told FoxNews.com that Fuller -- who was charged with disorderly conduct and making threats -- is still at an undisclosed facility in Tucson, Ariz....

"...Fuller, ... said Palin and other media figures had 'definitely' had an impact on the Tucson shooting. He also said Palin 'should be incarcerated for treason for advocating assassinating public officials.'

"...'If you are going to scream hatred and preach hatred, you're going to sow it after a while if you've got a soap box like they've got. We've got a surplus of demented dingbats, wackos.'...

"...Fuller appeared to become enraged and allegedly started threatening Tucson Tea Party co-founder Trent Humphries at a town hall meeting being taped for an ABC News special.

"Fuller ... snapped a photo of the Tea Party leader and yelled out, 'You're dead.'..."
He also stated that folks at the Tea Party meeting were "whores."

Apparently, at least under current circumstances, law enforcement in Arizona is able to impose a sort of 'time out' for someone who behaves as Mr. Fuller did. Allegedly, as the article put it.

Disagreeing With the President isn't Treason - It's Disagreement

I remember the 'good old days,' when 'regular Americans' often assumed that disagreeing with them was treason to motherhood, flag, and apple pie. A lot has changed since then.

And, in some ways, not much has changed.
"...WALLACE: What do you think of Barack Obama's presidency so far?

"PALIN: He has some misguided decisions that he is making that he is expecting us to just kind of sit down and shut up and accept, and many of us are not going to sit down and shut up. We're going to say no, we do not like this... ..."
Not sitting down and shutting like a good little American is not, I think, treason. Even if the person who refuses to be silent doesn't agree with the President of the United States. Or me.

It's disagreement.

And, in my opinion, we're in big trouble when folks who do not agree with the establishment are seen as traitors. I didn't like that attitude in the '60s, and I don't like it now.

Related posts:
News and views:

1I'm a practicing Catholic, which makes me 'obviously' conservative or liberal, depending on the issue: "Conservative? Liberal? Democrat? Republican? No, I'm Catholic," A Catholic Citizen in America (November 3, 2008).

2 Excerpts from recent news and views:
"Arizona Shooting Victim Remains Under Psychiatric Evaluation Following Arrest at Town Hall Meeting"
Jana Winter, The Associated Press, via FoxNews.com (January 17, 2011)

"Arizona shooting victim James Eric Fuller remains under psychiatric observation following his arrest Saturday for threatening a Tea Party leader at a town hall meeting....

"...Pima County Sheriff spokesman Jason Ogan told FoxNews.com that Fuller -- who was charged with disorderly conduct and making threats -- is still at an undisclosed facility in Tucson, Ariz.

"On Friday, Media Matters touted their interview with Fuller, who said Palin and other media figures had 'definitely' had an impact on the Tucson shooting. He also said Palin 'should be incarcerated for treason for advocating assassinating public officials.'

"In the interview Fuller said: 'If you are going to scream hatred and preach hatred, you're going to sow it after a while if you've got a soap box like they've got. We've got a surplus of demented dingbats, wackos.'

"The news program 'Democracy Now' also featured an interview with Fuller who said that after being hospitalized for his wounds, he stayed up most of the night, writing down the words Declaration of Independence to help him try to calm down. The 63-year-old disabled veteran was shot in the knee and back in the shooting.

"But on Saturday Fuller appeared to become enraged and allegedly started threatening Tucson Tea Party co-founder Trent Humphries at a town hall meeting being taped for an ABC News special.

"Fuller -- who was sitting in the front row -- allegedly became agitated when Humphries suggested postponing gun control conversations until after all six shooting victims had been buried.

"Ogan said that Fuller snapped a photo of the Tea Party leader and yelled out, 'You're dead.' Fuller also began ranting, and as he was being escorted out, he addressed the audience as 'whores,' according to Ogan...."

"TRANSCRIPT: Fox News Sunday Interview With Sarah Palin"
FoxNews.com (January 7, 2011)



"WALLACE: How do you see yourself as a member of the Tea Party movement or a member of the Republican Party?

"PALIN: Oh, I think the two are and should be even more so merging because the Tea Party movement is quite reflective of what the GOP, the planks in the platform are supposed to be about. Limited government and more freedom, more respect for equality. That's what the Tea Party movement is about, so I think that the two are much entwined and I'm happy about that.

"...WALLACE: You say you are happy to be or proud to be a part of it. Some people think you want to be the leader of the Tea Party movement.

"PALIN: No, I would hope that the Tea Party-ers don't believe that they need some kind of well-oiled machine, some kind of replicate of the GOP or the Democrat Party and instead they remain a movement of the people uprising and saying, listen to us, we have some common sense solutions that we want our politicians to consider and to implement and this is much bigger than a hockey mom from Wasilla....

"...WALLACE: What do you think of Barack Obama's presidency so far?

PALIN: He has some misguided decisions that he is making that he is expecting us to just kind of sit down and shut up and accept, and many of us are not going to sit down and shut up. We're going to say no, we do not like this...

WALLACE: Wait, wait, where's he saying sit down and shut up?

PALIN: In a general just kind of general persona I think that he has when he's up there at, I'll call it a lectern. When he is up there and he is telling us basically, I know best, my people here in the White House know best, and we are going to tell you that yes, you do want this essentially nationalized health care system and we're saying, no, we don't....

"...WALLACE: Let's talk about national security. During the campaign, you said this about Mr. Obama. 'Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country.' The president has escalated the war in Afghanistan. He has launched more drone attacks in his first year than George W. Bush did in eight years. Given what he's done as president, do you take back palling around with terrorists?

"PALIN: No, I don't, because his associations with Bill Ayers and with others, he never really has, I think, adequately addressed why in the world he would have a relationship with a type of person like that, who had such disdain for America that he would want to bomb, harm, hurt, kill, Americans.

"WALLACE: But has he done a good job in protecting the country?

"PALIN: So the things that he has done right now as president in protecting the country, more power to him. We appreciate that he kind of went there fully with the commanders on the ground asking for more reinforcements in Afghanistan. Couldn't get there all the way with these guys, but kind of went there. Good, more power to you. And I speak as a military mom, too, saying thank you. You're giving me a little bit more of a secure knowledge that you're looking out for our troops and the things that their commanders are asking for. I'm thinking kind of, of my son in this situation. Thank you for doing that. However, there are many things that he is doing today that cause an uneasiness in many, many Americans, I'm one of those.

"Who looks at the way that he is treating the trials of these terrorists and kind of as gosh, they're on a crime spree right now. No, we are in war. These are acts of these war that these terrorists are committing. We need to treat them a little bit differently than an American who is worthy -- an American being worthy of our U.S. constitutional rights. I don't think the terrorists are worthy of our rights that people like my son fight and are willing to die for....

"...WALLACE: Let's turn to Sarah Palin, because there are some questions quite frankly I've wanted to ask you for a while now.

"In your book, 'Going Rogue,' you said that when you first heard that you were pregnant with Baby Trigg, you wrote this: 'I'm out of town.

"No one knows I'm pregnant. No one would ever have to know.'

"You made the choice to have Trigg, and it obviously -- you were showing me earlier pictures of him -- it was the right choice for you. Why not allow all women to make their own choice?

"PALIN: Well I believe that these babies in our womb have the right to life. And that's what I stand on. And I did. I -- I honestly, candidly talked about that in my book when I said, "I can understand the sensitivity of the issue," because I've been there.

"I've -- I've understood why that fleeting thought would enter a woman's mind.

"And then when I found out that after ultra sounds, after tests, that Trigg would be born with Downs Syndrome, of course that thought occurred to me again. Wow, this is why a woman would be fearful of less than ideal circumstances, and maybe think that a quote, unquote, 'problem,' could just be swept away....

"...I want women to know that they are strong enough, and they are smart enough to be able to do many things at once -- including carrying a child. Giving that child life. And then perhaps if they're in less than ideal circumstances or they're carrying a child while they're trying to pursue career, or avocations, or -- or education opportunities -- less than ideal circumstances.

"Giving that child life which it deserves, and then perhaps looking at adoption, or looking at other circumstances after. But not snuffing out the life of a child....

"...WALLACE: ... with 17 months left in your term. You said, 'I wasn't going to run for reelection. So I was going to be a lame duck.' You said that the state was being paralyzed, because all of your opponents were filing these lawsuits." Didn't you let your enemies -- your opponents drive you from office?

"PALIN: Hell, no. Thankfully I didn't. What's -- what we did was we won, because the state today -- it's not spending millions of dollars to -- to fight these frivolous lawsuits, and -- and frivolous ethics charges. Ethics charges like me wearing a jacket with a snow machine logo on it. And getting charged for an unethical act for doing such a thing.

"Little piddly, petty things like that that were costing our state millions of dollars. And costing me and my administration -- my staff members -- about 80 percent of our time fighting those things. 'No,' we said, 'We're not going to play this game.'...

"...PALIN: I don't think that they think I -- look it. I'm sitting here talking to Chris Wallace today. I think some of them are going, 'Dang, we thought she'd sit down and shut up after we tried to do to here what we tried.'...

"...PALIN: I didn't hear Rush Limbaugh calling a group of people whom he did not agree with 'F-ing retards.' And we did know that Rahm Emanuel, it's been reported, did say that. That's a big difference there.

"But again, name calling, using language that is insensitive by anyone -- male, female, Republican, Democrat, it's unnecessary, it's inappropriate and let's all just grow up....

"...WALLACE: Handicap the 2012 GOP presidential race for us. Who's the front-runner?

PALIN: No idea. I have no idea....

"...PALIN: As I say, I could name a whole lot of them but we don't have a whole lot of time. But I'm very impressed with many of the characters, the personalities of those with great intelligence in this party and I can't wait to see who rises to the surface, after hopefully some very competitive, contested primaries.

"I'm all about competition. I'm all about, even on our local level and state level, I want to see contested primaries where we are forced via competition to work harder, produce better, be more efficient and that's what these contested primaries that I look forward to will produce.

"WALLACE: You talk about rising to the top. There's a new poll out this week of Republican voters across the country and it shows someone named Sarah Palin leading the 2012 race by five points over Mitt Romney. Aren't you the front-runner for the nomination?

"PALIN: Nope. Don't know who conducted that poll and I know that polls are fickle and heck, after this interview, Chris, we may see a plummeting in the poll numbers. Who knows. These are fickle. I can't comment on what the poll numbers mean today....

"...WALLACE: I know that three years is an eternity in politics. But how hard do you think President Obama will be to defeat in 2012?

"PALIN: It depends on a few things. Say he played, and I got this from Buchanan, reading one of his columns the other day. Say he played the war card. Say he decided to declare war on Iran, or decided to really come out and do whatever he could to support Israel, which I would like him to do. But that changes the dynamics in what we can assume is going to happen between now and three years. Because I think if the election were today, I do not think Obama would be re-elected.

"But three years from now things could change if on the national security threat --

"WALLACE: You're not suggesting that he would cynically play the war card.

"PALIN: I'm not suggesting that. I'm saying, if he did, things would dramatically change if he decided to toughen up and do all that he can to secure our nation and our allies. I think people would perhaps shift their thinking a little bit and decide, well, maybe he's tougher than we think he is today. And there wouldn't be as much passion to make sure that he doesn't serve another four years --

"WALLACE: But assuming he continues on the path that he going on and we don't have that rally around the flag (ph) --

"PALIN: Then he's not going to win.

WALLACE: Not going to win?

"PALIN: He's not going to win. If he continues on the path that he has American on today -- and here's the deal -- that's what a lot of Americans are telling him today and he's not listening. Instead he's telling everybody else, listen up and I'll tell you the way it is.

"Well, we have a representative form of government in our democracy.

"And we want him and we want Congress to listen to what those things are that we are saying. And that's what the Tea Party movement is about, too. It's not a well-oiled beautiful machine.

"It's the people saying, please hear us. Congress, you have constitutional limits and we want you to adhere to those. We have free market principles that built out country. Mr. President, we want you to remember those. We want you to look back on successes in history, like what Reagan did in times of crisis. And, could you repeat those things because they are proven to succeed.

"WALLACE: Word is that you're getting $100,000 for this speech this weekend. True?

"PALIN: I'm not getting it. They're writing a check -- a $100,000 check. And as I've said from Day One on this, I'm turning right around and being able to contribute it back to the cause. That means to people, to events --

"WALLACE: So you're going to use your PAC and contribute it to candidates?

"PALIN: I don't know if it's going to go to the PAC or if it goes to some non-profit or what.

"Bottom line, I'm not personally benefiting from this. And the funny thing is, as I've had a lot of people, including a couple of talented people and talent at FOX say, funny thing about these type of speeches, Sarah you're an anomaly. Nobody ever has asked, are you getting paid for this? Or, what are you going to do with the money?

"But, this is the new normal I think when it comes to me, is people wanting to have me under a microscope and figure out every little detail of my life, including speaking fees.

"Bottom line, Tea Party movement, I'm giving the money back to the cause.

WALLACE: Finally, regardless of whether you ever run for political office or not. What role do you want to play in the country's future?

PALIN: First and foremost I want to be a good mom. And I want to raise happy, healthy, independent children. And I want them to be good citizens of this great country.

And then I do want to be a voice for some common-sense solutions. I'm never going to pretend like I know more than the next person. I'm not going to pretend to be an elitist. In fact, I'm going to fight the elitist because for too often and for too long now, I think the elitists have tried to make people like me and people in the heartland of America, feel like we just don't get it and big government is just going to have to take care of us.

I want to speak up for the American people and say, no, we really do have some good common-sense solutions. I can be a messenger for that....
I left out quite a bit of the Wallas/Palin interview: including comments about Regan as a role model for Palin.

I can see how this person - this woman - who won't do the decent thing and keep quiet when her views aren't proper: is so heartily disliked. She simply does not know her place. From the establishment point of view, anyway.


Brigid said...

There's something wrong here: "they're calling 'social studies' these days is is teaching about my 'good old days.'"

And I don't think this was supposed to be a question: "those 'hippies-college-students-and-flag-burners?'"

Either an article is missing, or this is supposed to be plural: "Not sitting down and shutting like good little American is not"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian H. Gill said...


Thanks: right, all around. I'd edited this a few times - and clearly missed a few incomplete re-writes.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.