Words are the instruments humans use to communicate. They can be funny, harsh, sad, business-like, authoritative, submissive, healing, angry, loving. I am seeing all those things in the wake of the shooting that took place in Arizona a few days ago, and I am deeply touched at many of them and very disturbed by others.
It’s been difficult to read reactions to news articles about the Congresswoman’s healing and about the funerals of those killed because for some reason I cannot understand more than a few responders feel the need to hurl nasty names and accusations in the name of bestowing blame.
It’s not news that the technology with which we run our lives offers opportunities to connect with others in ways unimagined not that many years ago. But how we choose to use that has not evolved at all. We simply have ways to spread our words wider and faster. And when societal restraints have receded, as they have, then what we say becomes that much more unrestrained.
Even before this shooting I have despaired at the trend in communication. Why, for example, do we seek the lowest common denomiator in communication, in actions, and in our leaders and role models? Do we really want to admire the worst instead of the best? Do we really want to take pride in our ability to spew hatred and blame?
I know I don’t, and I know many who don’t. But I have to admit it is very discouraging to see the hysterical pride taken by too many others in their words over this shooting.
If I could wish only one thing for 2011 it would be that those who are public figures–yes, Rush Limbaugh, you are one of those to whom I speak, and Sarah Palin–it would be that you realize the impact of your words. I am not asking you to change your views, but to change how you express them. There is nothing funny about using inflammatory words. There’s nothing heroic about them. They are simply toxic waste that attract and encourage other people’s worst to come out.
I have no doubt my words will fall on mostly deaf ears. I’m not a public figure. I have neither a political or social platform nor a television, radio show, or website with hundreds of thousands of fans. Nevertheless, I want to encourage those who will read these words to think about what they do say. And to ask their colleagues, friends, and family to do the same.
Let’s all choose our words carefully because the truth is that while sticks and stones can break our bones, and guns do kill, words create the world in which those weapons are brought to bear.