Speech And Consequences
A lot of people in America are taught to believe that Iran is a country chock full of people who hate America. A lot of Americans feel that the need to keep a missile tipped with nuclear weapons aimed at downtown Tehran is justified. People think that Iran is hell bent on getting nuclear weapons because it wants to use them to lash out against its neighbors and, quite possibly, the United States itself. Why? Because some jerk in Iran made the statement that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth or some other threatening statement. And if a nuclear weapon ever goes off in Tel Aviv it would be natural to suspect some kind of collusion from Iran. We’d expect that.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been bored enough to tune into one of those investigation dramas that have become such a fundamental part of television. But the plots are usually the same. A crime is committed, a body is found, and an investigation ensues. The detective tells the unformed cops to check out the neighbors and see if anybody heard or saw anything and checks out leads. Somebody in a neighboring unit heard a guy say that someone should off the victim. And the detective hops in his car to go find the guy that made the threat because he’s now a person of interest. It’s not rocket science. It’s a story telling formula that goes way back before there was ever such a thing as television.
Today, people like Sarah Palin and Sharon Angle are scratching their head, puzzled that people would be questioning the wisdom of their choice of violent rhetoric in their public speaking. People who want to defend Ms. Palin’s and Ms. Angle’s position are up in arms claiming that conservatism is under attack. But that’s not even close to being true and it appears to be nothing more than an attempt to deflect from the real issue of the irresponsible rhetoric that was used to make a political position. It doesn’t matter what side of the political aisle a crazy man comes from.
People are way too hung up on what the shooter’s political leanings are. It doesn’t matter if he had a copy of the Communist Manifesto in his room or a Christian Bible. People are hung up on proof and evidence and if anything I learned from television police dramas it’s that a book alone isn’t enough to determine somebody’s thinking. Not too long ago this site was visited by a conservative who wears his conservatism on his sleeves like a tattoo imbedded into his skin. This man was conservative to the very core of the cavity where his heart would be if he had one. This future domestic terrorist jumped to all kinds of conclusions and used his limited understanding of my position to argue that I was blaming the political right for the shooting in Tucson. If he printed off an article found here and took it with him to read in the little outhouse behind his home, no one would assume he switched his political leanings. It wouldn’t matter. The shooter was crazy. His political leanings don’t matter one iota.
What does matter is the venom and maliciousness that can be perceived as contributing to the angry and intolerant environment that we all find ourselves living in these days. I remember Elizabeth Edwards appealing to Ann Coulter for some semblance of civility after some vicious and totally unsubstantiated accusation Ms. Coulter made regarding Ms. Edward’s husband John was gay. Ms. Coulter countered that Ms. Edwards was trying to silence opposition despite Ms. Edwards pleading to take the animosity out of the discussion. Ms. Edwards wasn’t attacking conservatism and wasn’t even attacking Ms. Coulter despite Ms. Coulter’s contentions that her first amendment rights were being trampled upon.
If anyone thinks I’m trying to point a finger at conservatives in general, I’d like to go on record to say that I’m not. I am pointing the finger at specific people that have grossly demonstrated their lack of stepping up to the plate and accepting responsibility for their contribution to our hostile political environment. Today, people are calling on both sides of the political aisle to tone down the rhetoric. And truer words were never spoken. Both sides need to pour a little water on their fiery speech.
But this doesn’t mean that we have to pretend that some irresponsible words can’t be associated with a horrendous act. There is a lesson to be learned here and we shouldn’t be so quick to turn our backs on it. Irresponsible speech has the potential to be associated with irresponsible and/or horrendous acts of behavior. Think before you speak. Otherwise, suffer the consequences.