The shooting of twenty people on Saturday, January 22, 2011 in a Tucson, AZ shopping mall, seriously wounding Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has shocked the nation. This heinous act of violence which has claimed the lives of six persons, including nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green was not perpetrated from a sleeper cell terrorist of al-Qaida or a Muslim extremist but by a twenty-two year old White male named Jared Lee Loughner. This attempted assignation of an elected official has fueled a growing debate about civility and hate speech in our political and civil discourse. Not only that, but this incident involving Congresswoman Giffords in particular has centered on Sarah Palin and her Tea Partyers because Ms. Giffords was one of the Democrats targeted by Sarah Palin after posting a map on her Facebook page that had circles and crosshairs over 20 Democratic districts. She also sent a tweet saying, "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" around March 24, 2010. An aide for the Sarah PAC defended the depiction of the crosshairs as being a surveyors symbol and not the sights of a scope mounted atop a rifle, if you can believe that; but then, why is there a picture of Sarah Palin brandishing such a weapon when the Tea Party took aim at Senator Harry Reid of Nevada on March 27, 2010 in his support of ObamaCare.
In response to the criticism and finger-pointing to the online post last year in lieu of this horendous shooting spree where Gabrielle Giffords was struck in the left side of her head at point-blank range, Sarah Palin said Saturday she wasn't [intending to] incite violence, [but] just trying to inspire people to get involved. Are incidierary rhetoric like- Death Panels for senior citizens, Liberals are destroying America and Our way of Life, Obama hates White people, Obama is a Facist, Socialist, Marxist who wants to negotiate with terrorists, Obama is a Muslim and Muslims attacked Us on 9-1-1, and other such comments as just a way of inviting people to get involved in the political process, or is it code phrases for something else more subtle and sinister that threatens to undermine this Democratic Republic? Syndicated political cartoonist Lee Horsey said on a segment of FOX Q13 News on Monday, January 10, 2011, that he is surprised that there haven't been more violent acts, considering the way that such partisan anger has made its way into political discourse.
It is certain that all sided of the political spectrum, radio commentators as well as pundits and news correspondents will weigh in on this issue with unending analysis ad nausem without reaching any mutual consensus or agreement; as one would expect nowadays in a steadily growing partisan, fragmented and polarizing society. Of course, there are serious matters that this tragedy has brought into the forum of ideas, namely: What should be done when an elected official receives threatening emails, and should the sender be prosecuted criminally; What about the First Amendment and Free Speech? Perhaps this another Second Amendment issue pertaining to acessibility to handguns; And what should be done with an individual who exhibits tendencies that are deemed as anti-social, aberrant or a "mental illness or impairment" and consequently, should such a person be mandated to receive involuntary treatment or commitment to a treatment facility with or without his/her consent? The reason for this last point, among which several more could be made, is that a classmate of of Jared Loughner or perhaps it is an acquaintance, made an online post around June 14, 2010, mentioning: Jared was a disturbed individual, a paranoid isolationist, but was friendly when you talked with him, but that there was a real concern that he would end up in the news for shooting a lot of people. Well, it seems that this unnamed person's fears were finally realized with deadly certainty.
The thing is, if and since this person felt so certain or stronglythat Loughner's behavior might lead to a potentially fatal outcome as what occurred, why not alert the police or someone in authority who perhaps could have intervened and maybe preempted this attack, saving the lives and suffering of so many people? I wonder how the person feels now after hearing about this massacre that for all intents and purposes was premeditated? People can debate or argue the seemingly inviolable Right of Free Speech in a Democracy, but what cannot be ignored is the 'effect' that language, and words in particuliar, can have on someone and as a result, a person has to as the old adage says, "Think before you Speak." However, no one is seriously advocating censoring "Speech" but words shouldn't just be spoken recklessly or irresponsibly because once they leave your mouth you cannot take them back and the reaction and response to a particular discourse might just have unintended consequences that the speaker did not anticipate and of which cannot be reversed. As the Wisdom of Solomon says on Proverbs 18: 21a: "The power of Life and Death is in the tongue."
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January 10, 2011
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