Monday, January 10, 2011

Arizona Shooting: Bitter Rhetoric Needs to End

At the end of the day on Saturday, after the memorial was done, a few of us were sitting around, laughing, talking. I don't know who heard the news or how, but suddenly there was an iPad running a report about a shooting...


I couldn't quite understand what I was hearing. A US Representative from Arizona was shot in the head? A judge and little girl were dead? More? How many dead? One, maybe two people involved...


Another young white man armed and dangerous. I thought about Tim McVeigh. Columbine. Waco.

Was he part of a group? Do we have more to fear?

I didn't need to know if it was a liberal or right wing group- my mind was clear about that whether or not I was right or wrong- I wanted to know if there was more to come.

Representative Giffords was shot because of what she believed. The people around her were shot, and killed, because of what Giffords believed.

I've received threats and nasty notes because of what I believe. Nothing I've ever taken seriously. Nut jobs. Whatever, in the famous words of my teenage son. Now? I have to I putting my kids in danger?

Let's be clear about one thing- right wing, left wing, this man is a terrorist. He used violence as a way to create fear. Being white, with an anglo sounding name, he was not labeled as such for quite a while.

Don't retreat, reload, says Sarah Palin.

As we head into what could be one of the most contentious political elections in our history, I hope the one thing we learn from this event is that our political discourse must change. We have to be able to think, debate and discuss without taunts or violent innuendo. Both sides are guilty of that.

I have been guilty of that.

In 1968, Memphis Sanitation workers went on strike, carrying signs that simply said, "I am a Man." It was a simple statement of dignity that demanded respect. It didn't say, You are an ignorant bigot. Stop being a racist jerk. Instead, the message was clear, powerful.

We need to return to those kind of messages, packed with emotion, without pointing a finger at someone else.

In the coming days, the debate will rage about who is responsible for this shooter's state of mind. Ultimately, he was responsible for himself. He is the one with blood on his hands.

The rest of us, right or left, need to acknowledge that it's time to change our messages. We are all responsible for the bitter rhetoric that has become commonplace in our country.

It's time for change.