Sticks and stones may break my bones (but words will never hurt me).
I’m sure almost every English speaking person heard that in their childhood, a mantra someone uses when someone has called them names. Of course if it was actually true, there would be no need to say so, the mere fact that such idioms exist is proof positive that words can most definitely hurt. Words can hurt, for good or for ill, they are one of the most powerful tools humans have for affecting how other people think and feel. Leaders don’t inspire crowds by drawing pictures or doing dances, most of the time they use words.
So I’ve been a little peeved at the amazing circumlocutions I am hearing from the right how the violent eliminationist rhetoric used by so many influential figures on the right is somehow irrelevant when someone actually acts out that violence. Yes, the Arizona shooter is a nut, no doubt about that, but since Obama got elected there have been half a dozen other nuts who also went out and shot people acting out right wing ideals, from shooting policemen out of fear of gun confiscation, to actual targeting liberals such as the fellow who shot up the Unitarian church. Granted this is a very small number of cases, but still, there is a pattern here. More on point, these shootings didn’t take place when Bush was in office, they took place after the whole Tea Party movement started and the rhetoric (not to mention actual guns) at political events reached new heights.
Do I think this is a major problem? Not yet, though it’s a major problem for those whose lives have been affected by this sort of violence. The fact that so many on the right are in complete denial about this though, that’s a problem. Let’s look at this. The right is constantly making the claim that liberal media and liberal educators are poisoning people’s minds. Some have even gone so far as to create Conservapedia, to counteract the alleged liberal bias of Wikipedia. So let’s see, all this liberal bias in the media is poisoning people’s minds … but all the vitriol, hate speech, and violent eliminationist rhetoric coming from talking heads on the right has no influence on people? While breathtaking hypocrisy is stock-in-trade for American politics, simultaneously ranting about the liberal media while denying that violent right wing rhetoric has any influence is about as hypocritical as it gets.
Moving right along in my random revisiting of the Arizona shooting, once again we have an incident that has been blown all out of proportion by the press and the politicians. President Obama even gave a speech at the memorial service. It was a stirring and inspiring speech by most accounts, but I’ve heard stirring speeches before and unless they are followed by action, I’m underwhelmed. It’s not like any effective gun control is possible in the USA, the conservatives have pretty much won that battle. And it’s not like people like the shooter are going to get more mental health resources available to them, again, the conservatives have worked hard to prevent spending on public health. Yes, I am not so subtly implying that aside from violent rhetoric, other conservative policies also contributed to this shooting.
Granted both sides used this incident to score political points. And I seriously doubt it will result in any changes in American politics one way tother. It’s just the story of the day. And despite the nonstop coverage in our so called Free Press, little of substance will be said. The Americans dying in our foreign wars for example, how much press do they get? And as a perceptive commenter pointed out on my last post, we are committing massacres like the Arizona shooting on almost a daily basis in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And this was a war the USA chose, the Taliban and the Pakistani tribesmen are only fighting back, we attacked them. This too isn’t likely to change any time soon, but like the endless conservative violent rhetoric, it’s going to come back and bite us in the ass again sooner or later.
Do we really want to inspire and incite another Timothy McVeigh or Osama bin Laden? Sometimes I wonder.
(The above image is a funeral after a drone strike in Afghanistan. It’s claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit: NY Times. Pretty good bet many or most of those people don’t look too kindly on the people who killed their friends and relatives. Why are we fighting these people again? When is Obama going to give a speech explaining that? And in a final macabre note, on top of my Internet and computer problems, I tried to saw off my thumb on Monday. No, not on purpose. So that too is going to limit my on line and writing time, sigh.)