Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wrapping assassins in the flag

A controversial image makes the cover of Newsweek.

View it here: "American Assassins"

Inside, Newsweek's cover story suggests the roots of American political assassination spring from our heritage. Newsweek seems to assert that it's cooked into our system:

"The brilliance of our Constitution and the political system it shaped has always rested uneasily beside a troubling tradition of lethal violence. This nation was born in armed revolution, an idea not lost of (Tucson suspect Jared) Loughner or most of the other assassins of the past."

 Do you buy Newsweek's attempt at a connection?

Or is the image of a flag-draped assassin on the cover of Newsweek designed to suggest political violence can be linked to flag-wavers? Flag-wavers at a Tea Party rally perhaps?

Then again, maybe the cover was merely an attempt to attract attention at supermarket point-of-purchase displays. (Gotta admit, the spooky flag-draped gunman got my attention).

Some suggest the cover and context further exploits the Tucson shootings to smear those with traditional American values. At, their posts seem to align with the smear theory. And one even jabs back at Newsweek with mock covers loaded with satire: Alternative Newsweek Covers

Newsweek does seem to twist a lot of history if it wants to wrap assassins in the flag. Some of America's most notorious assassins may have at times had political bents, but most didn't envisioned themselves to be what we'd call patriotic Americans. Nor did they portray themselves as such before or after.

Abe Lincoln was shot by a Confederate sympathizer. William McKinley by an anarchist. JFK's sniper was a fan of communism. Bobby Kennedy's killer spouted anti-Zionist rhetoric. Two apparent attempts on Gerald Ford's life came from members of the Manson family. And Ronald Reagan's unsuccessful assassin was a sicko trying to impress Jodie Foster.

Best I can tell, only President James Garfield was shot by a Republican gadfly. History tells us Garfield assassin Charles Giteau took matters into his own hands believing he was slighted when he failed to get a post-election political appointment. But there's also plenty of evidence Giteau was not a right thinking man.

Even Newsweek admits the real common thread connecting most American assassins appears to be mental illness.

So why wrap the cover figure in a flag?

One more thing about Newsweek's flag-draped assassin: The suspect in Tucson didn't wrap himself in a flag. A video posted on-line is purported to show him burning one.

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