Politics. I wasn’t sure when I would get here. It’s hard for me to put myself out there in a blog on politics because they are so intensely personal to me. I expect some reasoned argument from reasonable people who just happen to disagree with me. But I also know the trolls will also get on here and bash, mock, skewer, criticize, everything short of reasoned argument.
Even now my thoughts are jumbled and my heart is saying DON’T DO IT. DON’T GO THERE.
But Christina Taylor Green has nestled into my consciousness and I have to say….something.
Because every time I see her face, hear her name, or even just hear 9 year old girl, I ache to have my daughter wrapped in my arms. Luckily she’s not out of my reach. But this news hits me in my mother’s heart and hurts me in a real physical way.
There has been a lot of debate on the internet and over the airwaves about how much the vitriolic rhetoric of the right has contributed to this tragedy. 2 Political Junkies has done a great job at laying out the history of eliminationist rhetoric coming from the Right. So far I have yet to see anyone come up with a similar timeline of rhetoric from Democrats (who cannot be called the left) or even the legitimate left. I think I saw one comment about the FL Governor, but nothing like what’s come out of the Right. What makes the right wing rhetoric notable is its frequency, it’s consistently violent imagery, and the fact that it spans from the every day gun toting rally attendee all the way up to the most notable public figures from past (and future) candidates like Sarah Palin to national news personalities like Glen Beck.
This discussion is rampant on the internet and I don’t need to repeat it here. But I do want to share a personal perspective on this. Something that I proclaim proudly even though it might lose me some twitter followers, blog readers, friends…
I worked for ACORN. For several years here in Pittsburgh ACORN was one of my clients. Why is this relevant? Because the hate speech, the threats, the helplessness caused by finding yourself a target are academic to most people, but for those of us associated with or employed by ACORN it is anything but academic.
When Andrew Breitbart, a contemptible, vile human being who makes his living assassinating* the character of people and organizations, came after ACORN, he came after me and my friends and colleagues. He destroyed an organization that had been build from the neighborhood grass roots up over the course of 30 years. He ruined lives and careers. People lost their jobs. Neighborhoods lost their voice.
And they did nothing wrong. ACORN did nothing wrong. ACORN DID NOTHING WRONG. I was there. I saw it. There was not plot. There was no scheming, conniving, or crafting the over throw of anything. ACORN registered poor people to vote. They also hired poor people to do the registering. ACORN had a commitment to helping low income people in low income communities make a better life for themselves. As an organization, and as individuals working for that organization, they believed that civic participation through voting helps provide individual buy-in as well as build neighborhood power. ACORN gave job opportunities to people with spotty work histories and other black marks on their records in the belief that without a chance at redemption, there is no chance at redemption. (Kind of hard to argue with that logic, eh?)
ACORN did good work. Their incidents of bad registrations was no higher than any other organization that pays people to register voters (including Republican groups) and they followed the letter of the law in turning in bad registrations (can you imagine if a voter registration organization THREW OUT a bunch of registrations??? what kind of scandal would that be??)…..
And… I’ve wandered off into defensiveness again (it’s hard not to). What I really want to say is that my friends –people that live in this city, that work hard everyday doing what they feel is God’s work, or work to make people’s lives better, or work to help folks who need a hand, GOOD PEOPLE– have received DEATH THREATS. Threats with their NAMES on them saying they better watch out, someone is going to kill them because they work for ACORN. Why? Why would anyone want to kill someone who;
- registered voters;
- helped hundreds of families in Allegheny county keep their homes from being foreclosed upon;
- helped low income families prepare taxes for free;
- been there to help low income neighborhoods get officials to deal with dangerous conditions, drug houses, missing stop signs, etc.
I’ll tell you why. Its because Glen Beck, Andrew Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News spread lies, contemptible lies, hyped up violent rhetoric, vile, manipulative, scary lies, about the organization and the people that worked there. There is no other explanation. No one cared about ACORN before fox news and Breitbart started lying about the organization. Once they started lying though, the death threats started pouring in and people’s lives were ruined.
I was thinking of this over the weekend. As the Right wing tries to back pedal and say the cross hairs on Sarah Palin’s map weren’t gun sites but map markings, or that they can’t be blamed for the actions of a lone kook.
But they can be blamed for the lies that destroyed lives. They can be blamed for the fear, probably that both those on the right and the left feel. They can be blamed for creating an environment where it is actually possible that the shooter did in fact take his cues from them.
Every time I see signs like these it hurts me. Every time I read that someone took a gun to a health care rally, my heart breaks. Who do these people think the scary leftists are? I am certain I fit their criteria, having worked for ACORN, volunteered for Obama, and worked hard to get Health Care Reform passed. And they hate me. They all hate me and my family because we believe in a collective responsibility to the community. They hate me for what I see as compassionate and loving beliefs. They hate me. ME. Not just my politics, but ME. They hate my family. They want to hurt us. I don’t understand this. In my heart of hearts, I just don’t understand how so many Americans that don’t know me or my children can hate us so much.
I’m a single mother and I work hard to care for my family and to balance work and home. I haul my daughter to endless work events, all of which are political. She’s been to election rallies. She’s been to protest of all sorts. She’s been to ACORN health care reform events. I’m not sure what to do now. It’s not only necessary for me as a single mother, but I think it’s an incredibly valuable lesson for my children to see how people try to affect change in a democracy. And the chances of someone opening fire on such an event are smaller than the chances we will get into a car accident on the way.
At the same time I keep seeing Christina Taylor Green’s face. It haunt’s my thoughts. My heart is aching, aching, aching for her family. I think that as fundamentally important as politics (defined as trying to make my community and country systemically better) are to me, my daughter is more important. She may have to learn her lessons from the sidelines for a little while.
So. My first political post. Not about advocacy. Not well written. Just rambling. But I just cannot wrap my head around the hate. My heart hurts and I just don’t know how to make it better.
*I thought about using this word and wondered if it adds to the atmosphere of super heated rhetoric. But I actually believe that what happened to Rep. Gifford was an actual assassination and that what happened to ACORN was as well. The character of the organization and the people who work there were targeted and destroyed by folks with a political agenda.