Blood Libel and Sarah Palin: Wrong Word Choice, Right Sentiment?

Sarah Palin

The former Alaska governor has never met a headline she didn't like

Within hours after the horrific news of the shooting in Tucson last weekend that left six people dead and 12 wounded, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the media started pointing fingers about who was to blame for the unconscionable act.

Besides the actual shooter, who is believed to be possibly mentally ill, eventually the blame stopped squarely on the shoulders of, or close enough to, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who had targeted Giffords and other Democratic candidates in the November election by publicizing a map with crosshairs over their districts. Accompanying the photo was, “Don’t retreat, instead — RELOAD!”

The criticism and scrutiny of the crosshairs has gotten louder since Saturday, and Palin finally reacted, accusing the media of “blood libel” by feeling the need to assign blame to the atrocity in Tucson, saying on her Facebook page:

“Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own,” she wrote. “They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.”

I don’t agree with Palin about much, starting with her decision not to stay at home with and give extra care and attention to her special needs baby and pregnant, unwed and underage daughter as well as her other young children when she ran for vice president a few years ago (not to mention traveling while in labor with her special needs baby against the strong advice of her doctor). I don’t agree with her politics and the general snarky and smarmy way that she chooses to communicate. But I agree that she has a right to communicate. And it seems to me that the longer she communicates, the more she will turn off members of the voting public, which is just fine by me.

But when the assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan was connected to John Hinckley’s obsession with Jodie Foster and the film Taxi Driver, did anyone speak out against the screenwriter, director, or producer of the film for their role in the shootings? Political rhetoric, and fiction, are what they are. Palin is hardly the first, and certainly won’t be the last public figure to make incendiary comments about anything. I certainly won’t point her out to my kids as an example of a poignant, poetic, or articulate speaker. But she does have a right to speak. From what I’ve read, I don’t think she’s to blame for the shootings in Tucson, crosshairs or not, and I think it’s irresponsible of the media to point fingers for the sake of assigning blame beyond the shooter, especially before more is known about him and his motives.

Could she have chosen another term besides “blood libel” — one that didn’t offend some in America’s Jewish community by referring to a prejudice that Jewish people used Christian blood in religious rituals — or not given it a label at all and just defended herself on the merits of her argument? Of course, but this is a woman who has shown time and again that being politically correct is proudly not in her nature, that there’s something sexy about being a martyr, and that there’s no such thing as bad press when you’re name stays in the headlines as you’re considering a presidential run.

Do you think it’s fair to blame Sarah Palin for the shootings in Tucson?

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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