Monday, January 10, 2011

Sticks and Stones?

What has transpired in Arizona is nothing short of tragic. A 9 year old girl who was born in the waves of 9/11 has lost her life. A federal judge has been killed. An Arizona Congressional representative is in critical condition following a gunshot wound to the head that went through her brain (according to reports).

Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

True. But guns hurt indiscriminately.

My friend Erin blogged about the events a few days ago, and made a point of mentioning that no one can truly be held responsible except the shooter. And technically, I agree. But, I'd like to also point out people can be motivated by others (see cult mass suicides, terrorist attacks, etc.). That isn't to say that this particular shooter was motivated by political speech by any leaders from any party, but I also think it's too soon to rule it out. I think what she was getting at mostly (and I don't pretend to have psychic abilities) was that it's not fair to point fingers at any one person or group in the immediate wake of such an event. Rather, it may be best to form a more nuanced opinion once we get all the facts that are available. Nothing is going to undo what has happened; why waste time and energy firing angry remarks at each other?

So, now that I've explored other reactions, I'd like to offer my own idea:
It's categorically unfair to dismiss the harsh, violent rhetoric of political camps when something like this happens. We spend so much time as a society talking about action rather than acting, so we shouldn't be surprised when someone else elects to act. Is it coincidental that Sarah Palin (who I openly criticize for her lack of intelligence and ease of being imitated) had gun cross hairs on her website in the state of Arizona with the name Gabrielle Giffords attached? Maybe. Do I think Sarah Palin was openly advising people to go out and put these people in the cross hairs of real guns? I don't think even she is that stupid. However, political leaders can often underestimate the power of suggestion.

On the whole, I think some of the conservative movement following the November 2010 election will be stifled by this harrowing event. It's very easy to sit in Washington, removed from the reality of this nation, and say "there will be no compromise" and sign letters that clearly state your party intends to block every piece of legislation until you get your way (are we three years old again now? Pouting until we get our way?). I don't think it's necessarily fair that those with an opinion contrary to the left (and sometimes the President) are going to lose ground they fought for because of this, but it also isn't fair to assume that everyone who doesn't vote conservative eats granola, doesn't shave, sings Kumbaya and is carrying a baby killing, gay marrying, death penalty ending, gun abolishing, pot smoking, global warming conspiracy agenda, either. What happened to the America that is all about diversity? The Great American Melting Pot (please sing along, School House Rock-ers)?

All I'm trying to say (I think) is that we desperately need to learn to get along, or at least agree to disagree. Let's all have a beer (or a coke) and sit down and talk about our differences. I mean, John Boehner's gavel (compensation, maybe?) is big enough for both sides of the aisle, and the people in between.

Please don't think for one second that I have an issue with conservatives, because I don't. In fact, some of the people I respect the most are conservative, or at least more conservative than I am. But they get my respect because they are well read, well spoken and don't just spout off whatever is forced on them by someone with more power or influence. Those I interact with agree to disagree with me in the midst of conversations about the issues of the day, and it doesn't have to affect relationships.

This is where the reader and writer in me gets frustrated because we only seem to acknowledge the power of words when the results are life threatening. Sticks and stones and guns and bombs all cause serious damage.

Let's keep talking.

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