So, Sue had written...
"This has always been a violent culture from day one, a little common sense (short supply) and pause a beat before saying something isn't asking too much is it?"
And I told her:
@ Sue: Throughout their history, Americans were the most commonly sensible people in the world. A central problem now is that great and important swathes of the language no longer refer to reality. (This is what language is supposed to do: to raise the cognitive output of the human mind to a perceptual level -- writing or speaking -- for transmission of concepts.)
How and why this has happened is a long story, but it's important to understand two crucial aspects of it:
1) Although it's been going on for at least a century, this decay was drastically accelerated in the irrationality of the 1960's and its wake. (I am personally convinced that this condition is actually symptomatic of a deeper epistemic problem: the ability to think; to integrate concepts from the sensory material of reality, is disappearing, and the language reflects that. There are also, I think, elements of feedback in this dynamic, in which a decadent language must have certain implications for cognitive proficiency, especially among the young.)
2) A general long-run result of all this must be that more and more people just don't know what to say anymore, and don't mean anything when they say anything at all. (Interesting question: how much of a margin is there between those today with that condition of confusion and flat-out psycho-loonsters of the sorts that have existed forever?) When the language is corrupt, then the transmissive and receptive elements of reason itself are destroyed: there is no way to talk to anyone about anything, including matters with direct bearing on life and death.
Violence sublimated in political metaphors has always run through the public conversation in various rivers, nevermind the fact that the nation was born in violent revolution. What you called "common sense" was once, in part, a clear-eyed ability to perceive reality and act up to it. Now, I wasn't the first to mention the Tucson murders in a political context: just exactly that is what's been on nearly everyone's mind when the subject comes up. I will point out, however, that attempting to attribute this monster's behavior to ideology at all
is only barely worse than observing the rush to do
it. More important: if we're going to talk about the dreadful effects of every sort of hate speech in the political sphere, then I -- for one -- don't mind starting with every sort of metaphorical "war" that some commissariat announces with bloody sickening regularity since (in my lifetime) Johnson's "War on Poverty" and Nixon's "War on Drugs".
Wanna know why?
It's because words mean things, and crazy people think they're taking reality seriously when words don't mean things anymore.
I contend: the most dominant and rising element of irrational force in American culture is government, and more and more people are starting to live down to it.