In the aftermath of this past weekend's tragedy in Arizona, many people have been pointing fingers at our political leaders over their incidiary language and "toxic rhetoric." Because our political spectacle has become a proper fiasco, and gotten to a point where violent language is not only acceptable, but ubiquitous, we now find ourselves in a place where we do not know whether or not one person's violent actions have been influenced by the language they hear from our leaders. That is a truly scary thought.

People have specifically focused on Sarah Palin's map, featured on her website with cross hairs placed over the districts of Democratic congress members who voted for health care reform, Ms. Giffords included. When Palin posted the image back in March, she included the message: "Commonsense Conservatives and lovers of America: Don't retreat, instead RELOAD!" It is indeed a terrorizing image, one that induces fear and repulsion at the sight of it. It is insolent, small-minded, and exactly what is wrong with our status quo.

Sarah Palin is a lost cause. But whether she is culpable for the shootings in Arizona is inscrutable; it's a bit unfair to say that she is directly responsible for such a deliberate attack. However, she IS a central figure in our mainstream political circus, and her words have a significant resonance with those who hear them, as do the words of all of our leaders. I'm glad that this tragedy in Arizona has brought to light the great casualness with which we treat violence and violent rhetoric, of all things.

It is sad that it takes something so terrible happening in order for people to realize their mistakes, but perhaps this examination of the way we use our language, and the damage we can inflict with mere words, will have a real and powerful effect on our nation's leaders. And maybe this time they'll retreat, instead of reloading to fire another round of hateful speech. Because I think we all would rather live in a world that values peace and understanding, not violence.

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  1. One way to go beyond Palin (who is indeed a lost cause) would be to try and understand America's morbid attraction for guns and firearms. Which of course would point to the influence of certain lobbies on the politicians.

  2. Well spoken, Natasha, and I wish it were required reading for all political figures.

    Are we so blind, we cannot see?

    I am embarrassed and insulted by the caliber of our leaders, and their posturing. It's time they wake up and realize that words and rhetoric can truly have devastating consequences and grow some balls as to the reality of guns in America.
    Semi-automatic guns being used at high schools, malls and rallies.