Monday, January 10, 2011

The Cost of "Some" Free Speech

We try not to write too much about politics on this blog. One reason is that the members of The Stiletto Gang all have different beliefs. Even a blog post by "Evelyn David," involves the views of two authors from two different parts of the country, from two different religious backgrounds, and from two different life experiences. Then when you factor in our readers' beliefs, talking about politics is tricky. We don't want to offend anyone, but sometimes remaining silent isn't an option either. This post is from the Southern Half of Evelyn David - I will "own" these words.

Words have consequences. Whether we like it or not, we own our words as much as our actions. On Saturday I was trying to come up with a topic for today's blog when the tragedy in Arizona happened. My first thought was that some of the heated rhetoric of the past year had finally exploded into violence. As I'm writing this, details are just being released about the 18 people shot, the six killed, and the gunman who was captured by those on the scene.

The best quote I've heard so far came from the Pima County Sheriff, Clarence Dupnik. He's of an age and point in his career, that he can say what he really thinks, without worrying about the political consequences. The sheriff criticized the role of talk radio and television pundits in using over the top statements to push mentally unstable individuals to violence.

"When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous," the sheriff said. "And unfortunately, Arizona I think has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

I admit it. I don't have a favorable view of Arizona after this last election cycle. Instead of debating facts and ideas, each side tried to vilify the other with increasingly distorted facts and rhetoric. And the news organizations and talk show hosts rebroadcast those messages in sound bites packaged to stir hate. Of course it wasn't just Arizona politics that went off the rails, plenty of other states joined in. I'm from Oklahoma - the literal translation of "Oklahoma" is "land of the red men." That name still fits but now it's more for the state's politics. I live in a very conservative state and I'm not that conservative by Oklahoma standards. More often than not I'm voting for the politician who doesn't win the election. I usually cringe when I hear our U.S. senators speaking on behalf of Oklahoma. I think and say to those around me, "They aren't reflecting my views - they aren't representing me." But even then, it would never cross my mind to buy a handgun and try to change the political landscape with violence.

It doesn't matter what your political beliefs are, violence against those with whom you disagree is not justified or appropriate. Politicians and talk show hosts who inflame others into physical actions which injure or kill people need to be held accountable. Yes, it may be free speech. Yes, it may be the mentally unbalanced who are reacting badly. But real lives are lost. And the worst part of it all is that most of the individuals churning out the hate speech, don't believe it themselves. They are pandering to the uninformed, the undereducated, the unemployed and those terribly frightened of the cultural changes occurring in this country.

Note to politicians and talk show hosts - once your words have been recorded and posted on the internet, even if you hit the delete key and clean up your websites in the aftermath of a shooting, your words are still out there. They will come back to haunt you.

Rhonda
aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

10 comments:

  1. The Northern half of Evelyn David totally agrees. Thanks Rhonda.

    Marian

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  2. We have taught our children that words have consequences. That's why certain words are not allowed in this house: sucks, idiot, stupid, etc. You get the hint. Why have so many adults forgotten this? Maggie

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  3. I have a different take on this as you can read tomorrow. That doesn't mean that I like how horrible some of the radio talk show and TV hosts are (on both sides) and comedians who make nasty fun, but I don't think that was the root problem here. It certainly wasn't when Abraham Lincoln was shot or even when an attempt was made on Reagan.

    Yes, we all need to watch what we say and how we say it, it certainly would make the world a better place to live in.

    Marilyn

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  4. I agree in part. When we spew out hate and anger at every turn, one of the results is going to be violence. But another thing we teach our children is the concept of "consequences." Too many adults seem to forget this one as well.

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  5. Well said, Rhonda. What ever happened to the buck stopping?

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  6. Thank you Rhonda for going out on the ledge and talking about this tragic story. We need more compassion and kindness in this world and I hope that with the upcoming MLK weekend people will take the time to relfect and think of peaceful ways of coexisting on this planet.

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  7. A difficult subject, and heartbreaking. You speak the truth, to be sure, and I hope people are listening.

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  8. Great post and thanks sooo very much for having the courage to write it then put it up.

    As a political science/psychology major - in one of the first years when politicopsychology was becoming a very real approach to studying politics - I spent a ton of time researching these exact consequences, which fortunately then were potential consequences.

    My heart is sick to see that now these very scenarios we worried about back then and did huge papers on are happening.

    It is time we're all mindful of what we say and think...and even more important understand the ramifications of the packaging and imagery we use to express those feelings.

    Thanks again for sharing --- D. D. Scott

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  9. I agree with much of what you're all saying here and wanted to just add that everyone can and should express themselves in the least angry and hateful ways possible no matter what the discussion for one other simple and all-purpose reason: Being a screeching fanatic on any topic, in any state of mental stability, to any audience does nothing positive. It's a tantrum and a vanity exercise that gets nothing accomplished. Not one individual and certainly not the society as a whole gets a damn thing from such ranting and raving.

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