As I was apparently the only Jew handy during a blizzard that dumped 14-18″ of snow in the Boston area, I was asked to comment on whether Sarah Palin’s video (youtube) regarding the Tucson shootings was offensive. Here’s my analysis
- 30 seconds: “our exceptional country, so vibrant with ideas” … “a light to the rest of the world”; The rest of the world doesn’t seem to be in a rush to copy our political system. Most democracies are parliamentary. Do we have better or more ideas per capita than other countries? Certainly we’ve had more per-capita wealth for implementing those ideas, but where is the evidence that we’re more creative than everyone else on the planet?
- 60 seconds: “inexcusable … evil man took lives”; is there any evidence that the killer himself wants to be excused? Certainly nobody else has come forward to say “I think what Jared Loughner did was reasonable under the circumstances”
- 1:24: “spent the last few days… praying for guidance”; if God helped out with this video, I would have hoped that He could have varied the camera angle a little (yes, I know that I’ve done some equally lame work for my helicopter stuff, but my production budget is lower than Ms. Palin’s)
- 2:40: “Obama would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process” [based on there being some turnover of seats in every election]; contrary to Ms. Palin’s statement, it is extremely difficult for an incumbent Representative to be voted out of office. Congressmen and women choose their voters by rearranging districts; voters do not choose Congressmen in most cases. If the vulnerability of incumbents is a measure of political health, as Ms. Palin suggests, we’re not in the best condition.
- 3:31: “journalists should not manufacture a blood libel”; analyzed separately below
- 6:20: “it is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values”; this has been a very common sentiment expressed in Supreme Court opinions, e.g., when FDR was advocating throwing out the Constitution in order to deal with perceived emergencies during the Depression and World War II. The government would say “we need to regulate all of this stuff that has nothing to do with interstate commerce because of the crisis” or “we need to intern more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans without a trial because they might be a risk”. The sentiment is almost always in the dissenting opinion, with the majority agreeing with the government that the crisis trumps whatever freedoms people had formerly thought the Constitution gave them.
- 6:30 “we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security [after 9/11]”; Did we win this fight while I was waiting in the security line at Logan for my new X-ray scan?
- 6:55: “we need God’s guidance”; this seems like a bad way to deal with criminal justice or politics since people of different religions will get different guidance from God, at least to judge by what is written down in the world’s various sacred texts. A Jain, for example, would surely not hear divine voices telling him to invade another country, execute a convicted criminal, or do a lot of the other stuff that our government does.
- end of video impression: Palin’s face looks remarkably square (maybe it always looks like this? I haven’t seen any of her other videos and did not watch any TV coverage of the 2008 campaign (since I predicted Obama’s victory back on December 12, 2007))
Was Palin’s use of “blood libel” offensive to me or other Jews? Was it a reasonable analogy? Wikipedia notes that an unexplained murder in Norwich was blamed on the Jews. Palin was discussing an unexplained group of murders (probably nobody other than Jared Loughner will ever know the real reason) and how some journalists were blaming it on people who’ve made statements opposing Democratic Party initiatives.
Personal conclusion: Not offensive and perhaps the most accurate and sensible part of the video.
[Separately, I’m trying not to look at any news about this incident because it would be too sad to think about a 9-year-old girl dying, even if she were the only victim. According to some historians, Stephen Foster wrote Gentle Annie (lyrics; Marilyn Horne singing) after the death of a young girl in a carriage accident. For those of us who lack such talent, what purpose can be served by reflecting on the sad events of last weekend?]