Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sarah Palin and the Hand of the Dead Body

"Kill at Will" by Kenyon Bajus
"Ganksta N-I-P, Spice-1 and 2Pac never gave a gun to me."
- Scarface; "Hand of the Dead Body"
"We know violence isn’t the answer. When we ‘take up our arms’, we’re talking about our vote."
- Sarah Palin
Is Sarah Palin directly responsible for the shooting that took place in Tucson, Arizona this past Saturday? No. But is her rhetoric responsible for fomenting an atmosphere of hatred and violence that could lead to these sorts of tragedies? That's the question! This past week, I've been interested in deciphering the social dilemma that Sarah Palin has been urged to face (although I assume she views it as more of a public relations dilemma than anything else at this point). By now I'm sure you've all seen the following photo:

The image lists twenty congresspeople in swing districts, Gabrielle Giffords being one of them. What's gotten everybody up in arms talking about this image is the use of crosshairs on the pinpointed districts on the map. I get it. The symbolism is there. And eerily enough, Congresswoman Giffords spoke out on the not-so-subtle imagery a few months back. Soon after the tragedy, filmmaker Michael Moore sent out the following message on his Twitter page: "If a Detroit Muslim put a map on the web w/crosshairs on 20 pols, then 1 of them got shot, where would he b sitting right now? Just asking." That tweet basically summed up my initial reaction to both the story and the flaky, conservative backlash.

Now what intrigues me most about this exercise in political shit-hurling is Sarah Palin's stubborn position, wiping her hands clean from any and all implications - even so far as to proclaim herself a martyr by invoking the infamous "blood libel." Certain conservative pundits have even flipped the controversy on its head by labeling Loughner a left-wing extremist. That's appalling. In channeling Michael Moore's apt social analysis, I can't help but look at this issue wearing my hip hop glasses (word to those Cazal boys, Run-D.M.C.).

In 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle denounced "gangsta rap," specifically aiming at 2Pac's debut LP, 2pacalypse Now. On July 30th of that year, Quayle made the following remarks:
Companies... that produce these types of records have a responsibility. They can't just hide behind Free Speech. They can't just hide behind The Constitution. I'm not going to get into an argument whether this was constitutional or not constitutional. I'll just assume that it was constitutional and there was nothing illegal. It was wrong. It was fundamentally wrong. I hope they have recognized their mistake and I hope in the future that they will exercise better responsibility, better concern, for what these records will do on the street.
I've taken the liberty of revamping that statement for the 2-0-1-1:
People who release these types of images have a responsibility. They can't just hide behind Free Speech. They can't just hide behind The Constitution. ... It was wrong. It was fundamentally wrong. I hope Sarah Palin recognizes this mistake and I hope in the future that she - and all politicians - will exercise better responsibility, better concern, for what these messages can do to the psyche of a would-be killer.
Better? To me, the main difference between an emcee like Eminem saying "fuck blood, I wanna see some lungs coughed up" and Sarah Palin saying "don't retreat, instead - reload!" isn't the varying levels of violent imagery between those two lines. The crucial difference is that Sarah Palin is a former Vice Presidential candidate who is rumored to be running for President in 2012. (Worth pointing out: I used Eminem as an example. What if I had quoted a Black man's words instead?! *jawdrop*) The difference is akin to cable news channels standing in contrast to Jon Stewart's satirical comedy program. There's hardly any real, legitimate comparison or equivalency. Jon Stewart is not obliged by any ethical standards of journalism to be "fair and balanced." Hypocrisy and false equivalencies are often devastating when pointed out: In my summation, I notice that conservatives have been using the very same arguments that rappers have been using for years - often in reaction to outrage by... yep... conservatives.
"They say music can alter moods and talk to you/
Well can it load a gun up for you and cock it too?/
Well if it can, and the next time you assault a dude/
Just tell the judge it was my fault, and I'll get sued/"
- Eminem; "Sing for the Moment"
"They claim we're threats to society," Scarface delivered on "Hand of the Dead Body." How does that differ from Sarah Palin and her right-wing defenders' stance against the accusations that her provocative language and imagery can lead to the carnage we've just witnessed in Arizona? Truly, that final verse on "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta" will never lose its relevance.

In closing, here's a pertinent highlight from Ice Cube's 2008 LP Raw Footage:
I do gangsta rap. They wanna blame the world's problems on gangsta rap. It's our fault 'cause motherfuckers is dying in Iraq. It's our fault 'cause motherfuckers is starving in Africa. It's gangsta rap's fault that people are poor, can't get enough to fucking eat or live they life. That's rap music's fault. It's rap music's fault that we've got all these god-damned laws and restrictions and shit we can't do. They blame it all on us. I'm blaming them motherfuckers for gangsta rap. Because if they didn't create these kinds of conditions, I wouldn't have shit to rap about, you know what I mean?
I know what you mean, Cube. We can play the blame game from now 'til infinity. That won't get us anywhere though. Barack reflected on that point throughout the remarkable speech he gave tonight. Instead, the focus should be shifted towards getting rid of those "conditions." That's change I can believe in. Can it be enacted? Hasta la victoria siempre!