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Words DO matter...
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I've not had time to type in a list of the books I read in 2010; maybe next week I'll get to do it...hopefully.

In the meantime, we get to look at another national tragedy - the shooting in Arizona that left 6 people dead, and a congresswoman and others injured in varying degrees. And the debate has gotten heated. I've clicked on links on Facebook and read board posts that have the same view of the killings - yet find a way to disagree anyway. Because it seems that many "liberals" want to cast blame on the Tea Party / Conservative Right as being complicit in these murders, and the "conservatives" want to deny any little bits of responsibility they might have and, oh, by the way, let's bash those who are bashing us...

I saw the title of this blog post in a bulletin board post on AOL, and thought it was right on point. Words DO matter, in fact. If Sarah Palin used crosshairs as a symbol of those congresspeople that she and the tea party want to target for removal via the electoral process, it's unfortunate in retrospect, but before it was just a symbol that her backers could understand. And the vast majority of them, and of liberals, too, know that she wasn't being literal and suggesting that someone assassinate these legislators.

But words DO matter. So do symbols. I've heard rhetoric from the "right" suggesting that they "take out" or "take down" certain legislators, and I fully understand that this means "elect them out of office". But say those words about an Afghani terrorist cell leader to troops fighting in that country, and I'm pretty sure they don't interpret it to mean "elect the terrorist out of his position with the cell." They mean kill or neutralize the terrorist.

Use those terms to your typical liberal/left leaning citizen and they don't think in terms of military action. But use it to someone who is unbalanced and of that mindset, and they may just take it literally. When you stand before a crowd of gun enthusiasts, some of whom might have some degree of military training, or paramilitary training at least, and you say that you have to "take out" such and such legislator, maybe someone reads that the wrong way. Someone like this Jared Loughner, perhaps.

I'm not saying that Jared Loughner went to these rallies, read the websites, listened to the rhetoric, or was not mentally ill in some way. I'm saying that words can be read in different ways, and not always the abstract way they might be intended. Words like "take him out" or "take him down" might be like telling a soldier with a gun to shoot someone. Words like that might be like focusing a killer on a target he or she might not have otherwise acquired in his/her sights.

There's a lot of anger out there. Perhaps some, even much of it, is deserved. But I believe much of it is leveled at the wrong targets. Why and how it got aimed there is another discussion, but when something has been focused at a certain group of thinkers, it's dangerous. If we are all capable of reasonable thought, maybe it wouldn't be. But obviously not everyone is capable of that, and we find it out over and over with shootings at schools, at army bases, and now at a grocery store of all places.

There's room for debate. It's likely that minds are so made up that they can't be changed but still that's the way to go. There's no room for idiomatic rhetoric playiing on violent metaphors in this discussion, not with this much anger floating around out there just waiting to be focused.

Personally I believe that this kid probably did view the "left" as the source of his own problems and as being very wrong-minded. How he came up with that view remains to be discovered, but I think he probably was well aware of what the Tea Party was saying, what their leaders and their media shills were saying, and that is what focused his anger into a killing spree which seemed to at least have something to do with his disagreement with the health care plan that passed. Where do you think he got those ideas? I wonder if we'll ever find out.

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