Latino USA

Examining Our Political Lexicon / by Maria Hinojosa | January 12, 2011

Examining Our Political Lexicon

When gunfire erupted outside a Tucson grocery store last Saturday morning, a remarkable national conversation began almost immediately—centering, in large part, around the question: Has our political rhetoric gone too far?

Jared Lee Loughner was taken into custody at the scene of the shooting. He is charged in federal court with one count of attempted assasination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing a federal employee, and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee. It is expected that he’ll face state charges as well. Six people were killed during the rampage.

But even when the number of people killed and wounded was uncertain, there was talk of pulling back on the harsh language that has filled political discourse in recent years. Critics of this sort of language were quick to point to examples such as the graphic on Sarah Palin’s PAC’s Facebook page which showed gunsight targets over key swing districts before last year’s midterm election.

One of those districts was Arizona’s 8th, and the seat held by Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat.

Following the vote on healthcare reform last year, Giffords’ Tucson office was vandalized. She appeared on MSNBC to talk about political rhetoric, and addressed the Palin website graphic.

“When people do that,” the congresswoman said, “they’ve got to realize there are consequences to that action.” (see video)

Ms. Palin answered her critics mid-week: “Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. 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.” (read text)

President Obama traveled to Tucson Wednesday to speak to those wounded in the shooting, and to the families of those killed. He called on the nation to watch how we speak with one another: “…at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -– at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.” (see video or read transcript)

On this week’s program, Maria Hinojosa talks about the current state of political rhetoric, and whether civil discourse is possible for Americans now, and about the shooting in Tucson in the context of the climate of hate Latinos are feeling there.

Our guests are Roberto Rodriguez, who teaches in the Department of Mexican American and Raza Studies at the University of Arizona, in Tucson; and Mercedes De Uriarte, who teaches in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.


Right-click here to download an .mp3 of this segment.

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