12 January 2011


From today's NYTimes -- "Sarah Palin, who has been silent for days, issued a forceful denunciation of her critics on Wednesday in a video statement that accused pundits and journalists of 'blood libel' in what she called their rush to blame heated political rhetoric for the shootings in Arizona.

"'Acts of monstrosity stand on their own,' Ms. Palin said in a seven-and-a-half minute video posted on her Facebook page. 'Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.'

".... Ms. Palin sought to cast that criticism in a broader indictment of the basic rights of free speech exercised by people of all political persuasions. She said that acts like the shootings in Arizona 'begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state.'

"The term blood libel is generally used to mean the false accusation that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood in religious rituals, in particular the baking of matzos for Passover. That false claim was circulated for centuries to incite anti-Semitism and justify violent pogroms against Jews. Ms. Palin's use of the phrase in her video, which helped make it rapidly go viral, is itself attracting criticism, not least because Ms. Giffords, who remains in critical condition in a Tucson hospital, is Jewish."

So here we have a woman who aspires to the Presidency, not only refusing to tone down offensive rhetoric, but actually escalating it. She cannot seem to control herself -- she is so steeped in the language of violence and blood that she cannot even defend her own bigotry without using that language. It is unclear whether, in using the phrase "blood libel," Palin may have been trying to identify herself with the victim (a long stretch indeed), or whether she is simply, woefully ignorant of the pain which that phrase evokes in Jewish history. In effect, she is calling anyone who disagrees with her a Nazi. In psychology, there is a word for the act of denying one's own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, while ascribing those same traits to others. It is projection. (For an interview with Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik on the relevance of right-wing anti-government rants to the shootings in Tucson, click here.)

Ultimately, Palin's logic is faulty. Of course we as a society share concern for criminal acts perpetrated against us. We also share responsibility for mitigating or preventing those acts, by identifying and assisting the mentally ill, by erasing conditions like poverty or easy access to firearms, and by practicing adult restraint in our discourse, setting a good example for our children. Claiming that a criminal act begins and ends with the criminal is disingenuous at best, and only serves to perpetuate the cycle of violence. Either way, Palin's inflammatory language continues to demonstrate her dazzling lack of fitness for high office. Personally, I would not trust her with the care of my cats, much less the care of my country.

On a lighter and more elevating note, NASA has announced that the Fermi Gamma-Ray Telescope has "detected beams of antimatter produced above thunderstorms on Earth, a phenomenon never seen before." This is the stuff of science fiction made real. Be sure to play the brief videos embedded in the NASA link above.

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