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Reflections on Sarah Palin's Statement About the Tucson Tragedy

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In her January 12th statement titled "America's Enduring Strength," Palin characterizes her critics as using Loughner's bloody shooting spree to "manufacture a blood libel" against her. I guess that the expression "blood libel" means that her critics are libeling her by suggesting that she somehow indirectly contributed to the bloodshed in Tucson.

 

For this reason, Palin accuses her critics of "incit[ing] the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn."

 

But is there a difference between inciting hatred of someone's acts and deeds, on the one hand, and, on the other, inciting hatred of the doer of those acts and deeds? There is an adage, "Love the sinner, but not the sin." Or is this injunction an impossible standard?

 

But if this injunction is not an impossible standard, she could in theory use it in her own self-defense regarding how she targeted Congresswoman Giffords, among others, and she could also urge her critics to use this distinction regarding their criticism of her. However, if she were to use this adage in her own self-defense, then she would be obliged to follow the adage herself. Instead of referring to Loughner as "a single evil man," she would have to refer to his evil act instead of making a sweeping characterization of him.

 

Palin does characterize Loughner as an "apparently apolitical criminal." I like her use of the qualifying word "apparently." As I've noted, Loughner is reported to have attended an earlier event with Congresswoman Giffords and to have responded negatively to her response to him at that event. But Loughner may be a nihilist or anarchist. If he is a nihilist or an anarchist, then he is not apolitical. Nevertheless, he may not have known about Palin's targeting of congresswoman Giffords in the 2010 mid-term elections. From Palin's standpoint, this may mean that he was apolitical in terms of her political advertising.

 

But Palin quotes President Ronald Reagan as saying, "We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker."

 

That's nonsense, I say. Centuries ago, John Donne got it right when he said that no man is an island. In other words, each individual person's subjectivity is the product of intersubjectivity. Not just the individual persons around us, but the entire juggernaut of our cultural conditioning as Americans contribute to and influence the development of each person's subjectivity, including the local, state, and federal laws.

 

In his 1888 utopian novel LOOKING BACKWARDS: 2000-1887, Edward Bellamy uses imaginative fiction and fictional characters to argue that our American laws and customs are responsible for turning out so many criminals.

 

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

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