Move the cursor over the top menu to see topics. Choose a topic and click on it for a listing of multiple articles.

A Voice in the Wilderness-1-17-11-The hyperbole and outright distortions PDF  | Print |  E-mail


Special to the Press-Register

The hyperbole and outright distortions immediately after the Arizona shootings are beyond astonishing, but these renegade purveyors of propaganda should not be silenced. They should be refuted.

The reckless accusations, negligent half-truths and cynical calls to shackle free speech by the likes of The New York Times’ Paul Krugman should be shunned.

Sadly, crisis exposes petty and puny leaders. We would expect Pima County, Ariz., Sheriff Clarence Dupnik — who is responsible for upholding the law — to be grounded and firm, reassuring the public about protecting the people and pursuing justice.

However, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, Sheriff Dupnik persists in political theatrics, speculating on whose rhetoric is to blame and whose expression should be curtailed.

In a crisis, we are all Americans. We band together against evil and we have little patience for self-serving manipulations.

The investigation continues, but it is already clear that the Arizona shooter, Jared Loughner, was deranged and a menace to society. His politics are indiscernible and immaterial.

Incessant babbling about the culpability of unconnected people and groups distracts us from the real issues at hand, like recognizing sociopaths lurking in society before they strike and reaffirming the strength of our freedom against any assault.

The Arizona tragedy was just that and has nothing whatsoever to do with political discourse.

Stunned Americans — whether Tea Party supporters or not — were appalled by a madman’s heinous murders, and now they are disgusted by shameless opportunists seeking to exploit an irrational tragedy for political gain.

Now is not the time for division, but for unity to stand against a horrendous crime and those exploiting it to attack the First Amendment.

Tea Party supporters, like most Americans, love their country, but they are relatively unsophisticated in the ways of raw politics. They are shocked to find themselves being smeared with the same brush as the Arizona shooter, but they will continue to do what Americans have always done: seek justice, support freedom and pray.

Last year, I attended a meeting in Lennox, Ala., in a one-room schoolhouse perched on an isolated crossroad. It was overflowing with ordinary working people genuinely concerned about their country.

There were farmers, tradesmen, doctors, lawyers, homemakers, teachers and children curious about the future.

The anxiety was palpable.

The evening started with prayer, thanking God for our country and its bounty and earnestly asking God’s divine guidance to keep our country free. Passionate speakers declared that people should live free as our Creator intended, and questioned the proper role of government and the proper responsibilities of citizens.

They emphasized limitations on the power of government lest it inevitably oppress its citizens. Most important, they challenged a free people to protect their rights by providing for themselves.

This scene could have been anywhere in the colonies in 1776. It also could have been pretty much any Tea Party gathering the past two years.

Our tradition of freedom of assembly remains unchanged and should remain unchallenged.

In the wake of the tragic and senseless shooting in Arizona, some leaders in politics and media are now certain our national debate has somehow gone too far, that it’s overheated and dangerous and must be stopped to assure safety.

In 1776, one side believed we should be ruled by a king and the other believed we should be governed by the rule of law as agreed upon by a free people. Are the principles debated today any less stark in difference? One side pursues a socialist democracy supported by central economic planning and the other demands free enterprise in a constitutional republic.

We can argue about the preceding paragraph, but that is not the point here. It is, rather, that our national debate has continued unabated with sincere and deeply held beliefs on both sides.

The Founding Fathers recognized the vital importance of this debate and therefore enshrined the protection of the freedom of speech in the First Amendment.

Protecting an open forum for varying beliefs and divergent ideas was only part of the purpose. At times, certain groups come to dominate or prevail for a period. For the republic to persevere, it is imperative that the losing or receding group peacefully accept the majority decision.

Those in the minority opinion will only accept defeat, however, if they are confident of a fair hearing in the public square.

Free speech must be unimpeded, or a frustrated minority will feel they have no voice and no recourse in a restricted forum. Commitment to an unfair system will surely wane.

Freedom of expression is often coarse and even harsh, but it is crucial to the preservation of a free society. All sides must allow repugnant opinions to be aired, but refute or refuse them as we each choose.

Our freedom is too precious and too powerful to be brought down by a lone lunatic or a pack of sniping pundits and manipulative politicians.

Pete Riehm is a member of the board of directors of the Common Sense Campaign, a Tea Party group based in Spanish Fort. His e-mail address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .