Shooting of Congresswoman Giffords Is More than a Tragedy
Crossposted on Tikkun Dailyby Rabbi Michael Lerner
The shooting of Jewish Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is not just a tragedy -- it's part of a right-wing assault on government and the liberals and progressives who support it.
Liberals and progressives are hated in many Red States because they support government policies that put restrictions on corporations; challenge the racism, sexism, homophobia and hatred of foreigners that has been part of the traditional conception of white male power; and tend to be insensitive to the legitimate fears that many have about the collapse of families, religious traditions, and the triumph of materialism and selfishness. This last set of concerns is totally valid, and the willingness of liberals and progressives to only see the hateful side of right-wing ideology infuriates many who are drawn to the right not because of hatred of government or because of the various hatreds, but because they feel that their legitimate concerns about the selfishness and looking out for number one are never heard by the Left. Yet, there are a core of haters in the Right, we've seen them not only on Fox TV, Glenn Beck and company included, but also in the faces of some who were attracted to the Tea Party or who now rally around the anti-immigrant movement.
When right-wingers create a climate of hate against liberal government, and then individuals act on that hate as they did in blowing up a Federal Building in Oklahoma City and now this premeditated murder of several people (we are still praying for the survival of Congresswoman Giffords) in hate-filled Arizona (where she had been attacked viciously but not physically for her support of health care reform), the state whose racism has made it famous around the world for profiling Mexican immigrants, there is no call to investigate and protect ourselves from these right-wing hate mongers. Similarly, when Yitzhak Rabin was murdered by right wing Jews, the right-wing ultra-nationalist community in Israel's West Bank settlers never faced any serious investigation of their role in creating the hateful climate that helped produce the murderer.
Why does what Hillary Clinton once quite accurately described as "the vast right-wing conspiracy" get a free pass when its rhetoric can easily be seen to contribute to the climate of hate from which the actions of this "lone gunman" can be easily understood to have emerged? Isn't it time for us to demand that our government investigate the violence-generating discourse of the racists and the haters? Why, when the House of Representatives was in the hands of Democrats, did they not have any committee or subcommittee at work holding public hearings to explore what kind of legislation might help protect us citizens and our liberal and progressive representatives from the kind of violence that exploded in Arizona earlier today? Because if there is no such larger exploration of how to stop the haters and to uncover the full dimensions of those who are committed to destroying, one way or the other, the non-military functions of our government, then ordinary people are going to be more afraid to participate in the democratic process or come to any public events -- and that is a decisive step toward allowing fascism to triumph in this country. So don't think of this action as a mere "irrational event," because it fits very well with the agenda of those who want to give the country back 100% to the corporate powers and their Republican agents in Congress while scaring those who might wish to participate in helping build any kind of progressive alternative.
And don't underplay the anti-Semitic elements either. According to Ha'aretz newspaper, the killer's website had Hitler's hate book Mein Kampf listed as one of his favorite books! When Jews are targeted, it's rarely "by chance." Right-wing haters particularly hate Jews, since Jews were the most consistent non-African American constituency for the Democratic Party in 2010 voting, 70% for Democrats. If the rest of the country voted like Jews we'd have a liberal Democratic Congress. And this is not lost on the right-wingers. Just listen to the tapes of Nixon and you see how extreme the hatred of Jews is revealed to be by the "moderate" Nixon, and now we have the more extreme elements of the Right coming to power. Jews are, in the minds of these haters, the same as liberals or progressives -- maybe even the worst of them. And then, the sexism of the right manifests dramatically in attempting to kill a woman -- the perfect symbol of uppity feminists who dare to take power away from the male chauvinists who thought that "their" country was about white male Christian power. You won't hear the media dealing with these dimensions of the reality -- but they are central.
Of course, we care just as much about the non-Jews who were murdered and wounded in this disgusting attack. Just as Tikkun has consistently insisted that the lives and well being of Palestinians is just as important in God's eyes is just as important as the well being of Jews, so our outrage is not confined to any particular religious or ethnic group (from the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, to the Chinese occupation of Tibet, and the list goes on). And we therefore pray for an end to all forms of violence, no matter what justifications are put forward for them.
Most immediately, I invite you to join us in prayer for Representative Gabrielle Giffords and all those wounded and their families! May she receive a refu'ah shleymah, a healing of body and a healing of soul, and speedily return to our community fully healed.
Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God: Taking Our Country Back From the Religious Right (Harper San Francisco, 2006), is rabbi of the Bay Area congregation Beyt Tikkun and editor of Tikkun magazine: a bimonthly Jewish and interfaith critique of politics, culture, and society.For more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun Daily’s email digest or visit us online.