I had the right to remain silent, but not the ability. – Ron White
My entire career has been spent working in words. I would take to the streets in protest to defend the right of free speech. This is because I believe words to be powerful beyond measure.
Saturday a madman armed himself. At this writing, he is confirmed to have killed a child and a federal judge at a supermarket in Arizona, while wounding several others. He did so at a constituent meeting of Rep. Gabrielle Gifford. Almost immediately, the Facebook, blog and Twitter social media world focused in on Sarah Palin.
This might seem an odd leap until you see a graphic from SarahPAC from the past election cycle.
Giffords’ opponent in the close race used imagery of machine guns and held shooting events during the campaign.
Almost as suddenly as blame was placed at Sarah Palin’s feet, her supporters and others were quick to begin to shame those who made what is quite frankly not that big a leap: Blaming the maker of ads with violent imagery about a politician after said politician was shot at a political event.
I have no idea what motivated this man to commit such a horrific crime. We may never know what drove him to this madness. From the very little we have seen of his youtube channel, he seems to be a severely disturbed person.
What I am livid about today are the people who act as if Sarah Palin and Candidate Jesse Kelly have been somehow unfairly brought into this discussion. These two laughed off concerns that their violent speech was inappropriate. They raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars using words and phrases like: “hit list,” “Take aim,” & “Don’t retreat; Reload.” They helped create the very atmosphere of rage they act so horrified by.
Let me clear: I am not blaming them for the death of innocent people.
Their consequences are to have their words and motives questioned. They were not lone crackpots who spoke out of turn. They were at various times the official representatives of the Republican Party. Their words have weight. Had they run a campaign without this rhetoric, no credible person would have brought them up today. They said what they said, and now they have to live the fallout.
The consequences for the GOP are for the rest of us to ask, “Where were you?” Did you laugh this off too? Did you try to stop their shameful speech? Did you speak to the people about such carelessness in their rhetoric? Or did you just cash the checks? You pushed this rhetorical snowball down the hill. Why are you surprised you got caught up in it?
Here’s the kick in the pants: I believe they had the right to say everything they did. I believe it was disgusting, but not illegal. I don’t think it should be illegal. My Communication Law professor taught me, and I believe strongly: The cure for bad speech is more speech, not less. So I think people with power and a microphone should use it carefully. I implore those with money to spend to spread messages would do so with careful consideration.
One of the things I pray for… is people with power will get good sense, and that people with good sense will get power… and that the rest of us will be blessed with the patience and the strength to survive the people like you in the meantime. – Julia Sugarbaker
My deepest prayer tonight and every night: Dear God, Save us from ourselves.
Post Script: Do I think Democrats are blameless and have never said horrible things? Of course not. But today is the GOP’s turn to get a stern talking-to from me. Another day, I’ll scream at Democrats, and yet another day, I’ll holler about why we can’t get common sense gun control in this country.