January 11, 2011

The Power of Words

Let me start this post with this disclaimer: I am not, in any way, blaming Sarah Palin or any other conservative politician for the actions of Jared Lee Loughner in the shooting in Arizona on Friday. 

That being said, there has been a lot of talk in the media about where to place the blame.  This seems to be how we (I'm not sure if that's a global "we" or a societal "we") respond to these events that we can't seem to wrap our heads around: someone must be to blame.  Someone or something must have cause this/these person(s) to act in this way.  I think we feel better if we know where to point our fingers because it gives us something to fix, a way to right the wrong.  And in theory, if we have a known cause, we can prevent this behavior in the future.

While it's pretty obvious that Loughner suffered from severe mental illness, people are still wondering if an external source may have prompted or fueled the fire to his rage and led to the attacks.  This has started a lot of finger pointing in the direction of the political rhetoric in our country (notice, I gave credit to no party here... it's on both sides).  People are questioning the violent themes that have come from recent political speeches.  For example:

"I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back." and "...having a revolution every now and then is a good thing" - Michele Bachmann

"I hope that's not where we're going, but you know if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out. –Sharron Angle

"Don't retreat. Instead - reload" -Sarah Palin

"To the day I die, I am going to be a progressive hunter." -Glenn Beck

And certainly, there has been much talk about the crosshairs on Governor Palin's Facebook page (which has since been removed) targeting specific politicians, including the targeted victim of this shooting.
As I would expect, there has been a lot of defensiveness about this from the politicians and supporters.  And again, I'm not saying any of these politicians should be held accountable for Loughner's actions.  But I am saying that this might be a good time to step back and realize the power of words.  Isn't that something we try to teach our children? 

As a teacher, I can say that we have zero tolerance policies in place, which prevent students from making such threats because we realize that words can be dangerous.  Imagine if your child came home from school and told you that another student drew a picture with your child in crosshairs.  Even if it was meant in jest, I'm guessing you probably wouldn't find it very funny. 

How can we expect our children to treat each other respectfully when the leaders of our country can't?

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