Monday, January 17, 2011

Why Violent Rhetoric Matters in Wake of Tucson Shooting

Some people would like us to ignore all the violent rhetoric that preceded the shooting deaths of six people, including a federal judge, and the serious wounding of U.S. Rep. Giffords in Tucson.

But we shouldn't.

What Tucson did was make the violent rhetoric real, to show us what those words really mean.

When politicians lke Sharron Angle talk about "Second Amendment remedies," this is what those words really mean -- shooting our leaders like judges and members of Congress -- whether or not Sharron Angle intended that anybody actually do it.

When people appear at Democratic rallies with signs about the "blood of tyrants" needing to water the tree of liberty from time to time, this is what those words mean -- shooting our leaders like judges and members of Congress -- whether the bearer of the sign intended somebody actually do it.

Those words were part of the political context we were living in prior to Jan. 8, 2011, whether or not they were a contributing factor to the Tuscon deaths.

Now that we see what those words mean in practice, people need to ask themselves whether that is what they want. Is that how they want their political system to operate?

If Sharron Angle, Sarah Palin, and protesters at political rallies mean something different, they should use different words because from now on, the images of Tucson will be linked with crosshairs on congressional districts and bodies in a Safeway parking lot. If people continue to use those words and images, they will have a tough time convincing people that they mean something else.

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