Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Perhaps it was because I was reading the article mere hours after the fatal Arizona shooting that this particular phrase caught my eye: “Our lawyers are sharpening their knives.” This was from the executive director of the ACLU in reference to a possible law suit against the county over controversial anti-Israel bus ads that were recently pulled from Metro buses.
Do I think that ACLU attorneys want anyone to be injured over the constitutionality of a bus ad policy? Of course not. Do I think that there’s perhaps another way to communicate their intent using words that do not invoke violence? Yes I do.
The rhetoric in this country is reaching a dangerous caliber: The classic likening of political foes to Hitler; Slurs against the LGBT community; Accusations of “death panels.” Last year’s congressional session saw an increase from 29 significant threats on senators to 49. Here’s the question we need to ask ourselves: Whether or not we’re the ones pulling the trigger, are our words having fatal consequences in the lives of others?
Does Bill O’Reilly deserve any piece of responsibility for the death of Dr. George Tiller, after calling him the “moral equivalent to NAMBLA and Al-Qaeda,” and accusing him of being guilty of “Nazi stuff?”
Should school board member Clint McCance be blamed for LGBT suicides after announcing on his Facebook page that (for spirit day) “The only way I'm wearin' (purple) for them is if they all commit suicide,” and “I like that fags can’t procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids and die."
Sarah Palin seems to be catching the majority of flack after Saturday’s attack, mostly due to the graphic she posted back in march that portrays cross hairs over the districts of 20 different congressional representatives who Palin urged her supporters to “target.” "These sorts of things, I think, invite the kind of toxic rhetoric that can lead unstable people to believe this is an acceptable response," Senator Dick Durbin said in reference to the graphic. Palin staffers have been swearing up and down that she was simply focused on giving the legislators on the map a “pink slip,” which is interesting seeing as how the graphic was accompanied with the message "Don't retreat; reload."
If you’re feeling particularly brave, you might check out some of the vitriolic content that Palin’s Facebook page has been carrying over the past 48 hours. How a person can look at the kinds of comments her posts are eliciting and not feel any responsibility to change her tone is beyond me. Condemning the violence is not enough. Palin needs to refute the violent words that her camp has been spurring on.
Our new speaker of the house had some nice things to say after Saturday’s tragic events. "What is critical is that we stand together at this dark time as one body. We need to rally around our wounded colleague, the families of the fallen, and the people of Arizona's 8th District. And, frankly, we need to rally around each other."
While I appreciate Boehner’s spirit of togetherness, I hope that Congress will also use this as an opportunity to show leadership in toning down the rhetoric that has been plaguing our nation, and fueling the uptick in violence. As Rep Giffords said herself last March “…the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that.” Let’s hope this is a lesson in consequences that sticks.
Photo Credit: Susie Harrison