A RUSHED RESPONSE
It is hard to maintain ones balance after a terrible event. People say and do things that they might wish to take back, so it's important to not add to the damage by responding impulsively. Men and women of good will should stay calm, and perhaps even offer one another opportunities for retraction, if they feel that someone has thoughtlessly said something awful, or irresponsible, or false.
For example, yesterday I listened to a clip of Rush Limbaugh saying, on the radio, that Jared Laughner, the deranged young man who killed and wounded innocent people in Tuscon, Arizona a few days ago, "knows that he has the full support of a major political party in this country."
Limbaugh was referring to what he calls the 'Democrat Party'. But he didn't stop at generalities. He went on to single out the newly elected local sheriff in Tuscon who happens to be a Democrat, and accused him of "doing everything he can to make sure he (Laughner) is not convicted of murder."
This is an outrageous statement, of course. But unlike most of us, Rush Limbaugh is actually in the outrage business. He measures his success by how much yelling he can hear coming back at him. And in Mr. Limbaugh's case the decibel standard is very high since he is literally deaf, having lost his hearing in 2001. One could therefore say that Rush was just doing his job, and perhaps, in the heat of the moment, was momentarily unaware that he'd sunk below even his own basement level standards.
(The Deaf Pontificator, like the blind art collector who paid 65 million dollars for a Picasso that he'll never see, might qualify as apt symbols for this age of hubristic excess. But I digress.)
The hearing aids that Rush Limbaugh wears have only partially restored his ability to hear anything but his own voice, and it seems he can't even hear that very well. If he could, he might have simply signed off after accusing half the registered voters in this country of conspiring to shelter a murder suspect from justice. Instead, he kept talking, and revealed more about himself than he may have intended.
In the first and last parts of the clip, LImbaugh energetically describes Mr. Laughner as a kind of gleeful sociopath, with acute knowledge of the political forces that will "protect" him from the consequences of his actions.
But about halfway through he hesitates and his tone changes from adamant to exasperated. He suddenly declares that it was well known that Laughner, "Didn't like things political.", and was "On the sherriff's radar" well before Sara Palin came on the scene, and "before there was a Tea Party."
Rush Limbaugh had just told his listeners that in the aftermath of his deadly rampage, Jared Laughner possessed the political awareness to know that "Democrats" would work to blame someone else for his crimes. Yet In almost the same breath Limbaugh also says that before he took a loaded gun to a political rally, Laughner was a person with a well known aversion to "things political"!
Even by today's standards, this was an exceptional level of nonsense, and Mr. Limbaugh seemed, for a brief moment, to realize it.
So, Rush. I know you can't hear me, but I'm writing to say that I heard you, and I got a feeling that you knew you'd made a mistake. You told your audience that Jared Laughner "knows" he'll be protected by a major political party, and then you told them that he wasn't a person who would have been motivated by politics. All in defense of your own political point of view, which you feel is being unfairly vilified. I get it. But you've got to admit it's the kind of out-loud, public gaffe that you normally jump all over. Only this time it was you that sounded, well, stupid. You screwed up, Rush! It happens. People say dumb stuff. Why should you be any different? I'm just hoping you'll at least acknowledge that you heard yourself, and realized, for a moment, that you weren't making any sense. I'm also hoping that maybe next time you'll think about what you're saying, and the effect it could be having on your listeners.