You know what’s most ironic about all this criticism over rhetoric? In 2007, three years before Jared Loughner shot 20 people, killing six, he asked a question to his future target Representative Gabrielle Giffords: “What is government if words have no meaning?”
This war on violent rhetoric (all coming solely from the right, apparently) is inane. Violent language and debate has always been in our country’s history, yet people speak as if no one argued or got upset before the Tea Party came about. Violence peppers our language. Political opponents fight over “battleground states.” We speak constantly about verbal “assaults” and “attacks,” as opponents “blast” or “lash out” at each other. We speak of “being armed” in a debate. The word “campaign” is a military term. We reference political “crusades,” such as the “war on poverty,” or the “war on drugs,” or the “war” that you probably didn’t notice me mention when I began this paragraph. “Violent” rhetoric is everywhere.
This has always been a part of American history. We should be glad that this violence overwhelmingly materializes in just our speech. There was a time when tar-and-feathering to express displeasure and duels to solve arguments were not uncommon. What we do now is tame!
The actions of one lone, deranged individual should not redefine the way we engage each other, especially when there is no evidence that rhetoric influenced his actions at all- when in reality the evidence points to the fact that he believed words had no meaning. Yet as we speak, some of our elected officials are planning to use the actions of this lunatic to justify limiting free speech and seizing control of media outlets. This is wrong.
Just because an insane person attacked our country does not require us to become insane ourselves.