Out of My Mind 23

Dialing back the rhetoric

The shootings in Arizona were a tragedy that shouldn’t havehappened. No one who is elected to public office should be in fear of beingkilled for serving his or her constituents. And no one that goes to see theirelected official should have to fear being killed by gunfire. With the killingof innocent bystanders and the serious wounding of U.S. RepresentativeGabrielle Giffords some of our public servants might think twice before meetingwith the electorate and that too would be a tragedy.

Some were quick to blame the heavy-handed rhetoric andoutright outlandish and mean-spirited claims that accompanied the last electionas to why the gunman went to assassinate the Congresswoman. So far, it looksmore like he was an unbalanced young man who acted for reasons that may neverbe known.

The incident probably says more about who should be allowedto own a gun and who shouldn’t than the harsh words levied at opposing partiesin an emotion-filled run up to the last election. It’s certain that the debateover gun ownership and mental illness will take on new urgency in Arizona.

Law enforcement hasn’t come up with some kind of politicalmanifesto left by the gunman to say that the ramped up name calling between thepolitical factions aimed suspect Jared Loughner at the Congresswoman Giffordsand media speculation has been just that. Some on the right were quick on thedefensive after the shooting, while some on the left were just as quick to castblame where maybe none existed – one good thing that came out of thismisfortune is the dialogue has begun about how we treat our politicians.

For the most part we still live in a country with freedom ofspeech and freedom of press. No one is saying you don’t have the right to callpeople fascists, communists, socialist, tyrants, Nazis or what have you, butthe nastiness in this country when it comes to differing opinions has justgotten well beyond the point of valuable debate to a point where it makes usall look bad. Have we been transported back to the schoolyard days wherecalling each other names was the last step before the inevitablefistfight? 

Let’s keep the debate going and find a way to dial back therhetoric while making our political points without falling back on one of thelowest forms of trying to win the argument. We try to elect smart people tooffice, smart enough that they should be able to talk to us about why theirplan for representing the citizenry is the right one, rather than why peoplewho hold an opposing view are _____ (fill in the blank yourself).