January 13, 2011

Shooting at shameful rhetoric…

Posted in Between Us column, Diversity, Politics, Relationships at 4:40 am by dinaheng

It was the bullet that shot fear into the heart of every politician who talks more than he or she listens.

Last week’s shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a meeting with constituents in a Tucson supermarket parking lot shocked the nation, and set tongues wagging as to what was to blame for the gunman’s actions.

While it’s yet to be determined why the suspect, identified as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, went on the rampage that injured Giffords, killed six, and wounded 13 others, one thing is clear — such actions do not happen in a vacuum.

As Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik indicated, the suspect had a troubled past, and whether he was mentally imbalanced or not, “the vitriol that comes out of certain  mouths” about tearing down the government and targeting politicians for their views has contributed to a growing climate of hate and prejudice in America.

It’s ironic that in a democratic society, where freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our beliefs, people have either forgotten the power of words, or are misusing the power to persuade. Those who have misused the power of words are now back-pedaling, trying to say they don’t condone violence, just healthy debate between people who hold differing views.

They say they can’t be held responsible for the way others interpret their rhetoric. So what are these politicians really saying? Vote for me because I believe in X, but don’t consider those who disagree an enemy? Treat them as friends and just agree to disagree?

The same can be said of media commentators who spew hateful words on the air, in print,  or online, trying to generate controversy, rather than solutions to problems. The same can be said of anyone whose words reflect fear more than respect and concern for others.

Many people don’t want to talk about politics anymore because they’re afraid they’ll be lambasted for their opinions, or pulled into an endless argument that will result in nothing but indigestion and a headache. So they remain silent and let the rhetoric swirl around them, hoping that the poisonous atmosphere will not touch them.

Instead of speaking up against negativity, those who have forgotten the power of their own words wake up only when someone is shot, jolting them into verbal action.

There’s no one “side” to blame for the shooting in Tucson — every one of us is at fault for not understanding and using the power of words to unite, rather than divide. To use our words to heal, rather than wound, another.

The question is not what could have prevented the shooting rampage last week. The question is what are we going to do to prevent the next shooting from happening?

If we all listened more, and stopped shooting off our mouths so much, we might be able to actually hear what everyone is saying, and create bridges between people rather than deepen the divide.



  1. Bill Oakey said,

    Dinah, Your writing is so clear, sharp and dead-on correct! I plan to recommend you to many friends. What would happen to the state of politics if someone with your attitude ran for public office? The radio and TV pundits would not know how to handle the positive spirit, but the voters would!

    Please check out my comment in your “About Me” section. I’ll be interested in your response. It’s unfortunate that Fortune and CNN Money don’t have comments or even contact links for the authors.

    • dinaheng said,

      Bill, Thank you so much! I appreciate your kind words… Dinah

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