“There can be no high civility without a deep morality.”
The bright moment of yesterday’s vote on the “Ugh, this bill sucks” bill was Gabby Giffords’ triumphant return to Congress.
The House erupted in applause and Giffords looked marvelous, smiling, and strong. (Oddly, it was during the standing ovation that Michele Bachmann decided to slink into the room — bizarre).
The tone in Washington, however, is just as uncivil as it ever was. From Talking Points Memo:
After Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was nearly killed in a January shooting spree, talk of a “new tone” was all over Congress as lawmakers from both parties hoped the traumatic event would calm America’s increasingly violent rhetoric.
In the most recent instance, Republicans are slamming Vice President Joe Biden — who stopped by the Capitol for Giffords’ big entrance — for reportedly comparing conservative lawmakers to “terrorists” in a meeting with House Democrats the same day. Biden has claimed it was a House Member who used the phrase instead, but Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) demanded an apology in a fundraising email to supporters. “Our belief that America should live within its means and not spend more than it takes in distinguishes us as patriots who love our country, not to be equated with the terrorists whose sole aim is to destroy it,” she wrote.
Michele’s outrage is disingenuous, given her statement that she wanted Minnesotans “armed and dangerous”:
I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us ‘having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,’ and the people—we the people—are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States.
Um, Michele? What term would you use for a bunch of idiots who are arming themselves to fight the ever-looming threat of healthcare reform and the mortal danger that is cap-and-trade? Riddle me that?
Talking Points Memo has the rundown of the Beltway’s civility problem. Essentially, Democrats and Republicans are pointing fingers at each other: Democrats are likening the Tea Party to terrorists, while the GOP does little to dispel the notion that they are terrorists by watching clips from Ben Affleck’s movie The Town, in order to get fired up about the debt ceiling fight.
Last night’s vote was a culmination of weeks of rancor, accusations, and outrage — on both the left and the right. It seemed that the air was thick with tension.
And then there was Giffords:
Again, from Talking Points Memo:
As Giffords left the House yesterday, a reporter asked Nancy Pelosi whether her vote might help the two parties put the worst partisan excesses of the debt fight behind them.
“I certainly hope so,” she said. “She’s a symbol of that.”
As I watched Giffords, I must admit, I teared up a bit. The tragedy in January occurred one miles from my parents’ house. I have walked to the grocery store where she was shot. My parents routinely shop there. Tucson was devastated by the events on that fated January day, and that devastation went almost entirely ignored.
What got lost during the tragedy and the subsequent healing process, is that Tucsonians were severely shaken up. This tragedy affected their lives in ways they couldn’t even understand. And once the media frenzy died down, it was Tucsonians who were left traumatized, to pick up the pieces — left to wonder if there was something wrong with them because six months later, they couldn’t read a newspaper or watch the news, or think about politics as a result of the fog of depression still hanging over their heads like a menacing cloud.
So, for me seeing Giffords’s grand entrance was a testament to the human spirit — to our ability to pick ourselves up after a tragedy and fight onward. To do our jobs. To do what we are here to do. To make things better.
Some say she was merely the victim of a madman and that “civility” had nothing to do with it. Others think that’s a load of horseshit. And still others aren’t yet sure who or what to blame, but nonetheless think that we could all tone down the rhetoric to a respectable level. For my part, I was solidly in Camp Two directly after the shooting, but I’ve got one toe in Camp 3 now.
Still, I don’t buy the false equivalencies that are being floated now, and I didn’t buy them then. I don’t adhere to the “both sides do it!” argument. Both sides don’t do it. (In fact one side recognizes the absolute necessity of gun control, while the other side wants to put a gun in the hands of every man, woman, child, and fetus, and thinks it’s an awesome idea to actually engrave anti-Obama rhetoric on an assault rifle.)
I also will not pretend to be above it all. Y’all know me. I’m no poster child for “civility.” I have a category on my blog called “Please Die in a Fire,” for frack’s sake. I live in a glass house and I’m not going to cast stones.
But I will say this: The reason my category is called “Please die in a fire” is that it’s my own irreverent way of signaling that I don’t advocate violence. I’m all for people taking themselves out of the humanity pool by engaging in a little self-immolation, but commit violence? No. I slapped a girl in sixth grade (I don’t remember why — she pissed me off, I guess), but that is the extent of my fightin’ experience.
I may irreverently joke that I’m going to “reach out and cut somebody” or that something or other “makes me stabby” but it should be obvious that I’m not serious. I understand that words have consequences, and I’m sure that, by now, my readers understand that, love it or hate it, it is a stylistic choice.
Point is, there’s a time for snark and there’s a time for dooshery. The trick is to figure out what time it is, and act accordingly.
When a woman returns to her job after being shot in the head — when Gabrielle Giffords returns to Congress to do the job for which she was elected? That is not the time for snark or dooshery.
I’m talking to you Adam Green:
There’s something wrong with you, son.
To those echoing Adam Green’s sentiment? There’s something wrong with you, too.
It’s called “lack of compassion.” It’s also called “no damn sense.”
You’re an embarrassment to the progressive values you purport to hold so dear.
UPDATE: Here is Giffords’s press release:
U.S. REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS CASTS FIRST HOUSE VOTE SINCE JAN. 8 SHOOTING
Congresswoman travels to Washington to support bipartisan bill to avoid default
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to Congress today to vote in favor of legislation that will avoid a default by the U.S. government.
It was the first vote she has cast since she was shot and critically wounded on Jan. 8 while meeting with her constituents in Tucson.
“I have closely followed the debate over our debt ceiling and have been deeply disappointed at what’s going on in Washington,” Giffords said. “After weeks of failed debate in Washington, I was pleased to see a solution to this crisis emerge. I strongly believe that crossing the aisle for the good of the American people is more important than party politics. I had to be here for this vote. I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy.”
In December 2009 and again in February 2010, Giffords refused to go along with an increase in the debt limit. But this vote was substantially different, with the strength of the U.S. economy hanging in the balance.
1 Only if I agree that my statement or position should be retracted or amended, of course. Often people demand that I retract statements or positions they don’t like. That’s not gonna happen.
[via Talking Points Memo]
[cross-posted at Balloon Juice]