Tea Party and the Right  
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Let's Get This Straight: There Is No Progressive Equivalent to the Right's Violent Rhetoric

The shooting in Tucson was not an anomaly. It was an inevitability, and as long as we play this foolish game of "both sides are just as bad," it will be inevitable again.

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Bill Kristol took to the airwaves this morning to call criticism of Palin "a disgrace" and accuse liberals of "McCarthyism." Commentators on Fox News, meanwhile, blame President Obama for not changing the tone in Washington, like he promised. Which would be hilarious, were that redirection of blame not a key part of conservatives' strategy to dodge responsibility for the eliminationist rhetoric that certainly contributed to the tragic events of this weekend.

When, a few months ago, there was a spate of widely-publicized suicides of bullied teens, we had, briefly, a national conversation about the dangers of bullying. But in the wake of an ideologically-motivated assassination attempt of a sitting member of Congress, we aren't having a national conversation about the dangers of violent rhetoric—because the conversation about bullying children was started by adults, and there are seemingly no responsible grown-ups to be found among conservatives anymore.

Faced with the overwhelming evidence of the violent rhetoric absolutely permeating the discourse emanating from their side of the aisle, conservatives adopt the approach of a petulant child—deny, obfuscate, and lash out defensively.

And engage in the most breathtaking disingenuous hypocrisy: Conservatives, who vociferously argue against the language and legislation of social justice, on the basis that it all "normalizes" marginalized people and their lives and cultures (it does!), are suddenly nothing but blinking, wide-eyed naïveté when it comes to their own violent rhetoric.

They have a great grasp of cultural anthropology when they want to complain about progressive ideas, inclusion, diversity, and equality. But when it comes to being accountable for their own ideas, their anthropological prowess magically disappears.

Only progressives "infect" the culture, but conservative hate speech exists in a void.

That's what we're meant to believe, anyway. But we know it is not true. This culture, this habit, of eliminationist rhetoric is not happening in a vacuum. It's happening in a culture of widely-available guns (thanks to conservative policies), of underfunded and unavailable medical care, especially mental health care (thanks to conservative policies), of a widespread belief that government is the enemy of the people (thanks to conservative rhetoric), and of millions of increasingly desperate people (thanks to an economy totally fucked by conservative governance).

The shooting in Tucson was not an anomaly. It was an inevitability.

And as long as we continue to play this foolish game of "both sides are just as bad," and rely on trusty old ablism to dismiss Jared Lee Loughner as a crackpot—dutifully ignoring that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators; carefully pretending that the existence of people with mental illness who are potentially dangerous somehow absolves us of responsibility for violent rhetoric, as opposed to serving to underline precisely why it's irresponsible—it will be inevitable again.

Let's get this straight: This shit doesn't happen in a void. It happens in a culture rife with violent political rhetoric, and it's time for conservatives to pull up their goddamn bootstraps and get to work doing the hard business of self-reflection.

This is one problem the invisible hand of the market can't fix for them—unless, perhaps, it's holding a mirror.

Melissa McEwan writes and edits the blog Shakespeare's Sister .