The shooting Saturday of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) has prompted a flood of commentary about what might have prompted the gunman to act in a violent way.
For now, we will leave that side of the story to others, who are giving it a thorough examination. But we were struck by the reaction of certain American elites, including some of Giffords' colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives. The comments indicate that a few of our nation's leaders are woefully out of touch with reality.
Consider Martha Roby, a Republican who was elected in November from my home state of Alabama. Roby correctly deemed the shooting a "senseless act of violence." But she went on to add this:
One of the characteristics that make America exceptional is that we settle our differences through civil dialogue, democratic rule, and the fair adjudication of disputes based on the rule of law—not through cowardly acts of violence. There is simply no place for that in American society, and it should never be tolerated.
What planet has Roby been living on for the past 10 years or so? It's certainly a different planet from the one I've been inhabiting. Consider some of the characteristics that, according to Roby, mark American society as "exceptional":
* We settle our differences through civil discourse--We do? Has Roby seen the U.S. map on Sarah Palin's Web site that had crosshairs superimposed on Giffords' district, making the Arizona Democrat a "target" for the tea party? Is Roby aware that Palin's Web site had put Giffords' name on a "hit list"? Is Roby aware that Giffords had been the target of threats, harassment, and vandalism in the wake of her vote supporting President Barack Obama's health-care plan, according to a report from Zachary Roth of Yahoo! News? Here in Alabama, if you write critically about the Republican governor, you can lose your job at a state university--and your wife can be cheated out of her job, too.
* We are governed by democratic rule--We are? Is Roby familiar with the 2000 presidential election, in which votes almost certainly were stolen from Democrat Al Gore--and the U.S. Supreme Court gift wrapped the White House for Republican George W. Bush? Is Roby familiar with the 2002 governor's race in her own state, Alabama, where votes from Democrat Don Siegelman vanished in the middle of the night, giving the election to Republican Bob Riley? Is Roby familiar with the 2004 presidential election, where significant evidence indicates Democrat John Kerry actually won Ohio, and thus the White House, only to have votes stolen via electronic chicanery?
* We have "fair adjudication of disputes based on the rule of law"--We do? Is Roby aware that we currently know of at least six political prisoners in the U.S. at this very moment, including three from her own state--Richard Scrushy, Gary White, and Sue Schmitz, plus three from Mississippi (Paul Minor, Wes Teel, and John Whitfield). If Siegelman's conviction is not overturned on appeal--and it must be overturned if the actual law means anything--that will make a seventh political prisoner. And those are just the ones we know about, from only two states. Is Roby aware that it is commonplace for Americans to go into court--civil and criminal, at both the state and federal levels--and have their cases decided by judges who intentionally make unlawful rulings? Is Roby aware that appellate courts often stamp such bogus trial-court rulings with "affirmed," providing no explanation and no legitimate review? Is Roby aware that Americans have their constitutional rights trampled in U.S. courts almost every day? We've reported extensively about our own experiences with such judicial shenanigans, and we've written about other individuals who have been the targets of similar cheat jobs.
How is this for irony? A few minutes after I learned about the Giffords shooting on Saturday, I went to our mailbox and retrieved two interesting items. They were orders from two federal judges in Birmingham--in two separate matters, both stemming from our interactions with a troublesome neighbor and his sleazy lawyer--and neither order was based remotely on the facts or the law.
These judges, much like the state judges I've encountered, apparently think I'm too stupid to realize when I'm being cheated. I suspect they have the same feelings toward most average Americans. We will discuss these orders, and others like them, in a series of upcoming posts. But for now, let's just say that moments after reading about one form of American lawlessness in Arizona, I came face to face with another form in Alabama.
What does this have to do with the Giffords' shooting and the alleged gunman, 22-year-old Jared Loughner? Maybe nothing, in a direct sense. But the shooting did prompt the above comment from Martha Roby. And in an indirect sense, that shines a spotlight on the nature of lawlessness that exists in postmodern America.
Many Americans, especially elites, tend to think of crime in a "bottom-up" fashion. It's something that an individual from a lower class inflicts upon an individual from a higher class. In that sense, Jared Loughner appears to be a standard-issue American criminal. He apparently is a troubled guy, perhaps inflamed by right-wing rhetoric, who had access to a gun and took out his anger on an innocent person from a higher class. Had one of Loughner's targets not been a member of Congress, many Americans probably would have never heard about the shooting. Many of us, after all, have become anesthetized to bottom-up crime.
That, however, is not the only flavor of American mayhem. We have intimate experience with what might be called "top-down" crime--the kind that folks like Martha Roby prefer to ignore. It is dumped from above, by people in positions of power, on those of us down below. This blog, at its heart and soul, is about the victims of top-down crime--and how they often are ignored by people who have the authority to do something about it.
Consider our current president. Before he had even taken office, Barack Obama said that he was going to take a "look forward, not backwards" approach to the apparent crimes of Bush-administration officials. In essence, Obama was saying, "Lawlessness is OK, as long as it's practiced by higher ups."
Martha Roby says a certain kind of lawlessness, the bottom-up variety, "should never be tolerated" in American society. And she's right about that.
But Rep. Roby is wearing her elitist blinders. She apparently is blissfully unaware of top-down lawlessness, even though she lives in Alabama, which we have called "Ground Zero" for Bush-era criminality. It has become clear that many American elites, such as Martha Roby, are willing to tolerate top-down crime. Unfortunately, the rest of us let them get away with it.
As long as we tolerate lawlessness of either variety, and allow the free flow of guns throughout our society, we should not be surprised by ugly events like the one that took place Saturday in Arizona.