Political lowlights of the Marathon bomber manhunt

I spent nearly 24 hours trapped in my home because a heavily-armed, murderous terrorist was hiding in a boat just miles from me. I spent most of that time watching the news, following police scanners, digging into social media and texting my neighbors in a desperate attempt to be informed about the crisis that was facing my community.

While all of the Boston metropolitan area was in lockdown so that authorities could hunt for the surviving Boston Marathon bomber, some people decided to use the crisis as an opportunity to score cheap political points and to further flawed policies.

In Arknansas, state representative Nate Bell, a NRA-loving Republican, called Boston liberals cowards in this since-deleted tweet.

I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?

Bell managed to crassly politicize an ongoing tragedy by dragging the whole crisis down into the muck of gun control partisanship. He also managed to call Boston liberals cowards.

Never mind the fact that the ongoing investigation will undoubtedly reveal that stricter gun control probably would have prevented these two young men from arming themselves with assault rifles.

The Tweet ignited a firestorm of criticism, which prompted the cowering Nate Bell to delete his original tweet. Then he posted a non-apology on his campaign Facebook page.

I would like to apologize to the people of Boston & Massachusetts for the poor timing of my tweet earlier this morning. As a staunch and unwavering supporter of the individual right to self defense, I expressed my point of view without thinking of its effect on those still in time of crisis. In hindsight, given the ongoing tragedy that is still unfolding, I regret the poor choice of timing. Please know that my thoughts and prayers were with the people of Boston overnight and will continue as they recover from this tragedy.

So he doesn’t apologize for calling Boston liberals cowardly. He doesn’t apologize for his crude attempt to score political points in the face of tragedy. He only apologizes for doing it while the Boston area was still under curfew. When would the timing be appropriate? After more people have died? After more bombs have gone off? After the amputees have been released from area hospitals? After the hundreds of people affected by these events have finished treatment for PTSD or completed a one-year period of mourning?

The bottom line is that there is no good timing for when to behave like a partisan hack and call the people of the city which fired the first shots of the American Revolution cowards. Centuries ago Boston bled so that the Constitution could be born and Bell’s precious Second Amendment rights could be codified. Boston is the crucible of democracy and freedom. Boston was the first city to drive British soldiers from its soil.  Boston is the city whose people ran into the carnage on Marathon Monday and used their belts and shirts as tourniquets while the smoke still hung over the bleeding masses.

But Bostonians cowered in their homes and dreamed of owning AR-15s? I don’t think so.

Speaking of the Constitution… aren’t our national leaders sworn to uphold that document?

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, took to Twitter to pressure President Obama to treat the surviving bomber as an enemy combatant and withhold his Constitutional rights, such as a right to a trial by a jury of his peers?

If captured, I hope Administration will at least consider holding the Boston suspect as enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes.

It’s become clear that the government will use the public safety exemption to delay reading the bomber his Miranda rights, but the president also made it clear that the kid, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, will be tried in a civilian criminal court. This is a good thing, because we are a nation of laws. We have a Constitution.

Still, Graham and other Republicans will continue to push for this kid to get the Gitmo treatment, because it’s a political position they have staked out since 2001, never mind the damage it might do to our Bill of Rights.

Why is it that Republicans are so protective of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, but so blithe abut eroding the protections of the rest of the Bill of Rights. Treating a U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant takes away the rights guaranteed by the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments. Why is Senator Graham so ready to toss out those rights while fighting any legislation that tries to make reasonable changes to the Second Amendment?  Votes. Republicans have relied on the politics of fear ever since 9-11. They’ve relied on it since gay people started demanding the right to marry. They’ve relied on it since African Americans demanded an end to Jim Crow.

In fact, fear is common thread that runs through the politics of both these crass political hacks. One man would have us cling to guns in fear. The other would have us sanction torture and indefinite detention of a 19-year-old out of fear.

I am not afraid. I don’t need a gun to feel safe. I don’t need to waterboard a boy to feel safe. Last night as I listened to the sirens  and the urgent radio calls of police officers under fire, I did not give in to fear. I simply waited for justice. Both of these politicians would have us pursue a path that would deny that justice. Rather than try this boy, they would shoot him, torture him and throw him in a hole. That’s not what our country stands for. That’s not what our Constitution demands of us.


23 thoughts on “Political lowlights of the Marathon bomber manhunt

  1. You say that “Bell managed to crassly politicize an ongoing tragedy”. How is this different than Pres. Obama using small children from Newport Connecticut to further his agenda? Do you condone this type of action, so long as it coincides with your personal beliefs, but respond with righteous indignation when someone dare do or say something that hits to the right of your viewpoint?

    I applaud your concern that the suspect not have his Constitutional rights denied him. He deserves each and every right afforded to him under our legal system. We should never forget that, whether a crime is as public and horrific as the Boston bombing, or as mundane and simple as shoplifting, each accused person has rights. You also state “Why is it that Republicans are so protective of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, but so blithe abut eroding the protections of the rest of the Bill of Rights.” Let’s turn this around shall we, why is it that Democrats and other liberals so protective of the First Amendment’s free speech, but so blithe about eroding the protections of the rest of the Bill of Rights, especially those rights afforded by the Second Amendment? Why is it that Mr. Bell can write words that so many find offensive, and you can publicly criticize a government official, and neither of you are even the least bit concerned about being yanked from your beds at night and thrown in jail? It’s because our Founding Fathers had the intelligence and wisdom to understand governmental abuse of power and human nature. These same men saw the need to allow the public to own firearms without governmental interference. I thank God each and every day for their intelligence and wisdom, in both the First Amendment and the Second Amendment. I also thank God each day that we don’t live in a perpetual war zone where the need to keep and bear arms is a necessity and not a right. The Constitution is not something that allows you to pick what you want and disregard the rest. Take it as a whole, or throw it out and start over. This applies to Sen. Graham, as well as all of us.

  2. I read this as a Facebook link and have had a discussion there. Those with whom I’ve been talking said that I should bring my thoughts here. A few of my points David, the above commenter, has already provided so I won’t be redundant. Though, I’d leave out the bits about God, personally. Also, before I criticize, I’d like to applaud the blogger for calling out any politician seeking to strip the bomber of his rights as an American citizen. I’d like to note that there are Libertarians everywhere (even some with “R”s after their names) who are offended by the lack of Constitutional regard in the apprehension of suspect 2. Finally, I condemn Bell’s timing.
    Bell did NOT call liberal Bostonians cowards. He suggested that some may be cowering. The words are very different. “Cower” is a single act that does not imply judgement. That is, it is neither positive nor negative. It just is. “Coward” is a personality trait; a negative pattern of behavior. In fact, the two words don’t even share a common root. One is French, One is German. Though I’m sure the blogger didn’t intend it, he has misrepresented Bell’s meaning in a fashion that matters. Calling someone a coward is offensive. Noting that they are cowering is not.
    Second, Nate Bell made a good point. Owning a gun in that situation would have calmed at least some folks’ fears and could have made them safer. It feels like the author is trying to call foul just because he disagrees on gun policy. Someone isn’t wrong simply because they are offensive. The blogger hasn’t claimed this but has also not offered any other reason why Bell is wrong.
    Third, and related to David’s point about Obama’s use of slain children in Connecticut, when IS the appropriate time to make the link between policy and reality? Personally, I think politicians should use tragedies to make their points more often (AFTER the tragedy has passed). Why should we divorce our laws from our experiences?

  3. The fact that Bell’s comment was tasteless and lacking any semblance of class goes without saying. But what strikes me again and again as the gun debates rage beneath and alongside national tragedies is the fact that gun enthusiats aren’t wiling to incur any inconvenienc in the name of our safety. Remember how travel changed after 9/11? Remember how all of a sudden, getting through airport security was the biggest pain in the ass? It was inconvenient and irritating but somewhere in there, everyone knew that if those measures could prevent just one bad guy from getting on a plane, if they could save us from just one tragedy, then that was worth it. So we all do it. And we grumble and we groan while we’re in line and we think “do I LOOK like a terrorist?!” But we suffer the inconvenience because it might mean that someone’s dad comes home at night, that a mother gets to hug her kids again or that a child makes it to his 6th birthday. But our Senate, under intense lobbying pressure from the NRA, just looked all of us in our faces and said “it isn’t important enough.” The NRA, who continually claim that they defend the rights of the good guys to own guns, vehemently opposes expanding background checks for gun purchases. Does that make any sense? If your concern is that the good guys need guns to protect their families from the bad guys, wouldn’t any effort to keep guns out of the wrong hands be consistent with your goals? But here’s the thing: our safety is not their goal. I’ll be damned if I can figure out what their goal is, honestly. I can, however, say with absolute certainty, that if I was a good guy who wanted a gun, I’d take the aggravation. I’d sit through an inconvenient background check, knowing that it was a waste of time because my record is clean but knowing all at once that such a measure might save one life. And even if it was just one, wouldn’t that be worth it? The NRA says it’s not. Next year, the people of Boston will almost certainly put up with inconvenient security measures surrounding the marathon. They’ll do so with this tragedy in the back of their minds, conscious that any small irritation pales in comparison to the pain that might be inflicted were it not for such measures. They’ll do it because the safety of all hangs in the balance. Meanwhile, more mass shootings will take place, more kids will die on our streets, more women will be killed by their partners and the NRA and their supporters will try to tell you that background checks are unnecessary and inconvenient. And then you’ll know where the safety of others ranks on their priority list.

  4. In modern language, cower and coward do not mean the same thing in the way that a noun form of a word means the same as its verb counterpart (E.g. work and worker). Someone who cowers in not necessarily a coward. The relationship between them is something more like “math” and “chemist.” If you disagree, your argument is with the dictionary. Your disinterest in it is fine, but etymology is worth noting as it hints at word meaning (however evolved it may be). Though, the fact that these two words evolved on the same mass doesn’t mean they are related. Is there a scholarly source that says otherwise? Diction matters and you have misrepresented Bell’s.
    In regards to Obama’s use of mourning parents: Would it have been less offensive to you if Bell found some pro-gun Bostonians who supported his sentiment? Those would be too easy to find. How about some pro-gun Bostonian liberals who agreed with his sentiment? Harder to find but you know they exist. He’d have solidarity covered, at least by your definition.
    Is it still solidarity if some of the parents of the Sandy Hook shooting are pro-gun? Some of them are and Obama has ignored them because they don’t further his agenda (remember, I’m okay with this behavior).
    It is still blatant politicization whether the pawns are willing or not; vocal or not.
    Again, you’ve got my empathy in regards to Bell’s horrific timing.

    • You really want to argue semantics, don’t you? Perhaps we should consult with Nate Bell and figure out if he is an etymologist. Why didn’t he choose a word like “hiding” or “waiting” or “laying low” or something else less loaded. No, he chose cowering because it sounds like coward. He’ll never admit it, but he was using the Karl Rove playbook. There is no doubt in my mind.

      Now I’m going to swim up to the surface and point out the obvious. “Boston liberal” is a pejorative slur that Republicans love to bandy about when insulting and deriding people on the left side of the political spectrum. Since you’re so intent on parsing semantics, I think you’re well aware of this fact. Republicans have done a great job of turning “liberal” into a dirty word. I think it’s time for progressives to reclaim it. So I’m going to push back against a bloated slug when he dribbles this crap.

      Bell’s tweet was not just bad timing. It was derisive. It was cheap politics. It was callous. And he deleted it, because he knows it was.

  5. Cara. No. One life is not worth it.
    It’s a trade-off between security and freedom. You and I draw the line at different spots; a microcosm for America.

  6. Of course I’m all about semantics. I have to be! We are writing! Does a chemist disregard the meaning/order of numbers?
    Bell chose “cower” because that’s what people were doing.
    He chose “Boston liberal” because he was talking about liberals from Boston. Would you really have been less offended if he said “Boston progressives” or “Boston Democrats?” I wasn’t aware that “liberal” was a tainted word.
    I do agree that liberal should be returned to its original meaning. That is, Hayek’s liberal (Libertarians). Modern liberals don’t fit the concept of classic liberals (too much food/gun control and different monetary/tax policy). Though, they are closer to it than Republicans, for sure.

    • I’m sorry, but I’m done debating semantics with you. Your argument relies on some sort of platonic ideal of language where words have a literal meaning that cannot be bent or twisted or reinterpreted. Words are not fixed. They are fluid. People twist them, append connotations to them, and reinterpret them. Meanings evolve. I 100% guarantee you that Bell did not consult a dictionary before using the word cower. Your argument is specious.

  7. First of all, while I consider myself a liberal, I want to sat that I really appreciate some of the more conservative comments in among these replies. I have frequently had the frustrating experience of trying to talk, not argue, with people who disagree with me politically in order to better understand their thoughts and perspective, and hopefully for them to understand my thoughts and perspective. Too often my desire to discuss has been met with simplistic, name calling. I think the comments above from David an Abner are well thought out and intended to discuss rather than antagonize. I especially like David’s concluding thought “The Constitution is not something that allows you to pick what you want and disregard the rest. Take it as a whole, or throw it out and start over. This applies to Sen. Graham, as well as all of us.” This understanding that the constitution intentionally limits our abilities to enact any laws that are popular a the moment in order to safeguard us from abuse of power is something that all Americans should understand and agree on, whether liberal or conservative.

    I do agree with Shamus’ reply that a desire to create an assault weopans ban is not conveniently ignoring the second ammendment. As he points out, all of our freedoms have limits. The desire for an assault weapons ban is an opinion on the limits of our right to bear arms.

    I also think that tragedies are often incredibly relevant to political discussions. However, in making statements as a tragedy is unfolding, Representative Bell seemed to be more interested in scoring points rather than caring for the victims. Use of words like “Boston liberals” and “cower,” also give his statement the feeling of glee at the misfortune of those he obviously considers idiotic. Ultimately, whether coming from liberals or consrvatives, this type of cheap one liner is counterproductive. Interested discussion among people who don’t see eye to eye is the best antidote.

  8. ” I 100% guarantee you that Bell did not consult a dictionary before using the word cower. Your argument is specious.”
    Of course he didn’t! He already knows what it means!

    • “Boston liberals cowering in their homes.” I repeat: “Boston liberals cowering in their homes.”

      That’s called context, friend. Look it up.

      Synonyms to cower, according to Webster’s: cringe, grovel, quail.

  9. Context: “the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect.” -dictionary.com

    It is the only sentence in a one-sentence tweet, provided you quoted the whole thing. There is no context.

    • “There is no context.”
      This is pure fantasy. Move along. Trying to have the last word won’t make you right. A sentence can have context. Words influence each other. The definition you posted above proves that. You’re moving close to troll territory here.

  10. Pingback: Is the best argument for unfettered gun ownership fear? | A Readers Feast

  11. In all our interactions in the past I never even knew you were in Boston. Regardless of your political leanings, I am just happy to hear you have come out of this unfortunate incident unscathed.

  12. I have to agree with Abner on this one. You say that language is fluid and meanings evolve. While this may be the case, meanings of words don’t evolve overnight. To cower and being a coward are very different things and by saying that Bell called all Boston liberals cowards, you are misrepresenting what he was saying in his tweet. You can absolutely argue that cowering was too strong of a word for him to use, which I think is the case. You can argue that the tweet was ill-timed and a bad way to take advantage of a horrible situation to make a political point about having the right to own guns (which I also agree with). And to note, these were things he apologized for. He didn’t apologize for calling Boston liberals cowards because he never called them that in the first place. Communication happens through words; what you say, the words you use, and the way in which you say something is very important because words relay meaning. In fact, if you had not made the mistake of thinking ‘cower’ and ‘coward’ meant the same thing, there would not be an argument going on about semantics, and instead we could be talking about the actual issues. It is too bad that people don’t place enough importance on words and their meanings, as this is an essential aspect of communication and there would be less confusion about what people are actually trying to say or the point they are trying to get across. I find your lack of concern for semantics troubling, especially as you are a writer.

    • And I find your lack of concern for a sneering lack of common decency appalling. Your focus on a semantic dispute without regard for the connotative meaning of a word reveals you to be little more than a concern troll.

      Bell apologized for the timing of his tweet and nothing more. We Bostonians heard the implied meaning of his words loud and clear. Cower in fear without guns, you boston liberals!

      You can pile dictionary definitions on top of one another from here to the moon and it will make no difference.

  13. I’m with Shamus on this one — the tweet was clearly intended to make it sound as if left-wing Bostonians were hiding in their closets, shivering in fear, as opposed to sitting boldly by the window with their guns. I’m sure they, like right-wing Bostonians (yes, these do exist), were staying sadly at home trying to keep things as normal as possible, realizing that the police had a job to do and that keeping out of the way might help them do it. It’s hard to see how an amateur vigilante would be at all useful to the police. Of course, if the person who eventually found the suspect had shot him instead of phoning the police that would have saved us the trouble of worrying about whether the suspect would be tried in accordance with American criminal law.

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