An overlooked aspect of the public response to the Tucson massacre reveals the extent to which the American people recognize the reactionary and hysterical character of Democratic-Republican party politics as a grave threat to rights, liberties and the rule of law. Consider these lines from an NPR commentary by Daisy Hernandez:
I wasn't the only person on Saturday who rushed to her Android when news came of the Tucson shooting. I wasn't looking however to read about what had happened. My auntie had already filled me in . . . What I wanted to know was the killer's surname.Latinos were not the only folks who were concerned that their community would be demonized because of the actions of the lone gunman. Muslim advocacy groups also likely breathed a collective sigh of relief when it was reported that "the Tucson killer turned out to be a gringo." The relief among conservative Republicans was palpable as more details of the shooter's person and biography became public knowledge. Indeed, in many quarters it turned to rage at their demonization by liberal Democrats, who were likely also relieved that Loughner was not obviously one of them either. And reasonably so. After it was reported that Loughner in fact had no party affiliation, none other than Rush Limbaugh launched a tirade against Independents and centrists.
My eyes scanned the mobile papers. I held my breath. Finally, I saw it: Jared Loughner. Not a Ramirez, Gonzalez or Garcia. It's safe to say there was a collective sigh of brown relief when the Tucson killer turned out to be a gringo. Had the shooter been Latino, media pundits wouldn't be discussing the impact of nasty politics on a young man this week — they'd be demanding an even more stringent anti-immigrant policy.
Given the predilection of Democrats and Republicans to hysterical reactionism, many communities and advocacy groups remain justifiably concerned about a potential government-led backlash in the wake of the shootings. Among them: free speech advocates, gun rights advocates, advocates of open government, advocates for the mentally ill, video game lovers, marijuana legalization advocates, just to name a few.
It is no secret that the ruling political class, under the hegemony of the Democratic and Republican parties, legislates to the particular rather than the universal. The immediate response on the part of public officials to any such incident – whether it results in a horrible tragedy or whether a potential tragedy is averted – is almost invariably to call for further restrictions on fundamental rights and liberties. Americans know this all-too-well. As Thomas Jefferson famously stated, "When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny." It is time to declare our independence from the tyrannical and totalitarian politics of the two-party state.