Jan 8, 2011

the honorable gentleman

Reading various articles about the recent shooting of Gabrielle Giffords I was particularly struck by this headline "Congresswoman on Sarah Palin’s “Target List” Murdered at Political Event"

Before we go "there" I want to make it clear, this is not the entryway to a Palin bashing post.
While I have no love for Ms. Palin, I tend to think, like a misbehaving child, she is best ignored until she acts more like a civilized human.

This is also not intended to address anything to do with the political compass, or gun control.

What I am more struck by is the term "hit list" and the violent language we have come to embrace in matters that used to be governed by enforced civility. I was taught, a long time ago, in some American history class, that terms of honor and respect were made standard in the house because conversations would turn too violent, too confrontational. Which is to say, we govern our language to remind ourselves that we are not enemies, that respect words breed collaboration and genteel interaction.

And my how far we have come.

Go open a paper. Or a political website. Terms like "fascist" are thrown around with aplomb. "Evil". People make "hit lists". And these words aren't used on mass murdering dictators. They aren't being reserved for actual fascist rulers or crazy gone toting terrorists. They are being used to refer to someone in a different political party. With a slight deferring view. Sometimes these names are being cried out moments before the politician coldly shakes hands with the branded on a TV spot.

It seems violent language is cheap, and we are no longer required to respect anyone who disagrees.

And why does this matter? Right. They are just words. Phrases. Perhaps it is just the evolution of language? Or conversational speech. You can say bitch on TV now. Why not call the president a Nazi?

Because language has power. And the words leaders, even reporters, use have a special potency. Perhaps the expediency and distance of the internet is giving us an especially rigid skin and we can forget exactly how powerful words are. In a day and age in which you can call a friend a bitch online and not see them cry, it is easy to forget that cruel and explosive words have the ability to sway.

But they do. And when an unhinged 20 year you will never meet trusts you, and is being told that a perfectly respectable member of the house is on a "hit list" for very simply having a different opinion on healthcare. Well. We are walking on some very thin ice.
Not everyone is skilled in the nuances of language, on the combative rhetoric of the political zone. And they very well may take you at your word, they may very well pick a close target and hit that shit.

Or they may just lose perspective on the range of ideas and beliefs that exist in this world to be considered. They may narrow their viewpoint to a laser like beam, excluding and punishing all that do not fall in line.

That is dangerous too.

1 comment:

Mute Muse said...

Loved reading this, very insightful!:) thank you