Sunday, January 9, 2011

Free Speech Carries Great Responsibility

Yesterday's shooting in Arizona is yet another wake-up call to America.  Our political rhetoric carries a grave responsibility to frame that rhetoric in fact and end the dangerous era of distortion, non-truths, vitriolic embellishments, and hate-based speech.

Regardless of your political beliefs, there is no need to vilify politicians, legislation, or programs because they are contrary to your own.  Fight against what you think is wrong - Absolutely.  Point out what you believe to be the flaws and mistakes - Absolutely.  But the language we use must accept the responsibility that accompanies the right to free speech.

Last December (2009), I blogged about the need for patience during the holidays.  The situation of that evening would have been aggravated by impatience because the woman I blogged about was dealing with a disorder that often controls her -- our patience helped her control it. Political discussions need the same measure of self-restraint. 

Between September and October 2009, I blogged several times about the debate over health care and in July 2009 I blogged specifically about Sarah Palin.  Did I contribute to the fray by calling her a whiner?  I examined evidence of her behavior and tried to frame it as to whether or not she was suitable to be our Vice President and even President.  Her behavior seemed to merit that label. 

In an August 2009 blog post, I had questioned whether Palin might be more accurately labeled a court jester.  I asked whether she was really working under the cover of being a fool -- one who is able to tell the king the truth without fear of harm -- or if she really were the fool.  I would sincerely hope that these questions and opinions would not lead someone to try to harm Palin.  There is a difference between raising questions about the intelligence and ability of someone to lead the nation versus vilifying that person.   

It is clear that I am not afraid to speak out about my beliefs.  The difference, I believe, is the tone of rhetoric.  I believe in reasonable debate.  Let's examine issues, based on facts, and skip the fictitious scenarios -- scare tactics -- that make reasonable debate impossible.

Recently, national attention has focused on hate-speech and bullying; just Google the topic.  While much of that discussion is framed in the context of anti-gay bullying, hate speech is hate speech no matter who is the target.  These incidents need to become the lessons through which we change our behavior and rhetoric.

My heartfelt sympathy goes to all those who were physically and emotionally injured or killed in yesterday's shooting.  While their families search for some solace, we need to put ourselves in their shoes and ask ourselves if we have become part of the problem.  

Update:  I just saw the Huff-Post (Huffington Post) article on Sarah Palin's map that has "gun sights" on  the Democrats she wants to unseat in the next election, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically injured in yesterday's shooting.  This imagery is part of the problem I blogged about earlier this morning.  Targeting people with gun sights on a map sends a very disturbing message to people who are already on the edge between reality and insanity.  While she has the free speech right to do this, it seems very close to shouting "FIRE" in a theatre -- it is not reasonable and sane.  Palin's statement over this tragedy -- "we'll pray for peace and justice" -- just rings false when she has sent such a vitriolic message to her followers.

We have seen, over and over again, that people can react as if they were merely doing what the messenger said and no one else would do.  So how sane is it to continue to in the very behavior that we know triggers such an insane reaction?  It is clearly immoral and unethical.

That's my opinion.  What is your opinion?


  1. Amen to all of that, Claire. We all need to step back from the rhetoric and remember that lives were taken in a barbaric and senseless manner. Was any of this influenced by the current political banter? I don't know, but the more important thing is to keep focused on the victims, families, and friends AFFECTED by this incident. THEY need our thoughts, support, and prayers.

  2. I had known about the Sarah Palin imagery since it was an important piece of her and, to a degree, the Tea party allied campaign. As you said, this type of imagery just lights the fuse.

  3. Thanks for the comments Lou, here and on FB. claire