Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fightin' Words

Wow. I just watched former Senator Gary Hart make one of the stupidest statements I've ever heard.

Yes, even more stupid than "Follow me around. I don't care. I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be very bored." heh.

Hart blogged at HuffPo about violent rhetoric. In an interview about the piece, he says "There is no use whatsoever for these military and violence related metaphors to be used in political discourse." (He's hardly the only one beating this drum. The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and others has made this the internet topic right now.) On the blog, he wrote:

Candidates are "targeted". An opponent is "in the crosshairs". Liberals have to be "eliminated". Opponents are "enemies".

Here's the thing, Senator Follow Me... That's just how we talk.

Think about it. We use military and violence related metaphors for everything:

Killer headache. Backstabber. Shoot yourself in the foot. Thow 'em to the wolves (or under the bus). Having a blast. Blonde bombshell. Double-edged sword. In the trenches. On the front lines. Battle of the bulge. I got bombed/blasted. Under the gun. Bring out the big guns. ad infinitum.

I'm not even gonna get into sports. I don't have all week.

Even the government does it: War on Drugs. War on Terror. War on Hunger. Surely they don't mean they'll go randomly shooting or bombing to solve hunger. (Although if the tactics used in the War on Drugs are any indication...)


I (along with a majority of Americans polled) don't buy for a minute that Jared Loughner was incited by -- gasp -- VIOLENT VITRIOL!!!1!1!

Why? Because every aspect of our dialogue is filled with violent and war-related metaphors. If the only place such a thing occurred were politcal speech, there might be an argument for scaling back. Maybe.

PA's own Rep. Robert Brady (D-rama Queen) thinks it may be appropriate to make it a federal crime to "use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence" toward Congress or federal officials.

Could be perceived by whom? Hooboy. Waaaay too subjective, that.

No, our culture is steeped in violent language. And that's okay. Really, it is.

Despite the current hysteria and fingerpointing, and despite our violent language, the mentally ill are not just snapping willy-nilly and shooting people. Now, I'm not trying to downplay what happened to the victims in Arizona. But the reality is that last year only 15,241 people were murdered in America. (Yes, I realize that "only" and "murdered" don't go well together in a sentence. Bear with me, I have a point.)

The US Census population clock shows 311,874,613 of us, as of this writing. Last year, a little over fifteen thousand people were murdered. That includes those who were killed by family members or someone else they knew. When you discount for domestic violence, shooting during the commission of another crime, etc, there are actually very few "random" murders committed each year. Like a few thousand out of over 300 million people.

Meaning the odds are actually much against your (or my... OR a federal official) being murdered period, let alone being murdered over mere words.

So, yes... the Arizona shootings are a tragic crime. And, yes.. the mentally ill live among us. But the odds of an unhinged loner killing someone are actually incredibly low. Any given person stands a better chance of falling to their death than being murdered. You stand a greater chance of being attacked by your neighbor's dog.

Instead of panicking or regulating speech or legislating to the looniest common denomiator, let's all just take one step back - and one deep breath - and relax.

Because I, for one, am not going to start watching my every word. Nor should you.

And the odds are, no one will kill us for it.

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