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Extreme Right-Wing Symbolism Sparks More Violence

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When Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a Tucson shopping center in January, killing six people and seriously wounding U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, he might or might not have been directly influenced by Sarah Palin's map that marked Giffords' district in crosshairs. And we might never know. Nevertheless, the map clearly represented a culture of violent talk that has become all too pervasive in Tea Party circles and the right-wing media that influence them. Each and every act of violent symbolism encourages a violent mindset that can all too easily incite the mentally unstable to violent action.

And it can also inspire our enemies. This was sadly demonstrated by deadly protests that have played out in Afghanistan in recent days in response to the ceremonial burning of a Koran by Florida preacher Terry Jones. Dozens have died so far in those protests, including several United Nations staff members.

Jones, mimicking Sarah Palin's defensiveness on the Tucson shootings, insists that he is not to blame for the Afghan protests. Denial, as they say, is not just a river in Egypt.

Violence begets violence. And so does violent symbolism.

A rational person cannot stir up her followers with tweets like "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" and then expect them to react calmly and peacefully. Calm and peaceful is not how the right wing works.

And a rational person cannot hold a public burning of the Koran and not expect the Muslim world to see it as an act of Holy War - because, in a sense, it is.

Violence begets violence. And so does violent symbolism.

And these are not two isolated cases.

During the 2010 campaign season, Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV) suggested "Second Amendment remedies" if the elections didn't turn out as the Tea Partiers would hope.

In September of 2010, a male Sharron Angle supporter pushed a female Harry Reid supporter and then punched her female friend in the face at a Nevada Senatorial debate. Coincidence?

Violence begets violence. And so does violent symbolism.

Then, in October, a defenseless female MoveOn.org volunteer was assaulted outside the site of a Kentucky Senatorial debate. While engaged in street theater trying to get Rand Paul's attention, Lauren Valle was pushed to the ground by some of Paul's supporters, and then one of them stomped on her head. She ended up with a concussion.

I tend to think it's no coincidence that the right-wing media are constantly bashing MoveOn.org, at least rhetorically.

Violence begets violence. And so does violent symbolism.

In cases such as these, one has to ask: Who are the real terrorists?

 

Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
 
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