June 15, 2017 by gregrabidoux2013
It’s been building to yesterday’s horrific shooting now for some time.
As US Congressmen Steve Scalise (R-LA) continues to be in critical condition battling for his life and his colleague Roger Williams (R-IL) recovers from his wounds as well as at least 4 legislative aides and one special agent, we are left as usual with more questions than answers.
The media has predictably focused on the cowardly shooter, James Hodgkins, a 66 year old disgruntled Bernie Sanders political volunteer who was outspoken in his “disgust” and hatred towards President Trump and GOP members. I already know more than I ever wanted to know about this murderer. Thankfully, the US Capitol police shot him before even more bloodshed occurred. Sources indicate though that this killer was able to spray at least 75 bullets before being subdued and the fact others at the baseball field where the shooting took place also weren’t wounded or killed is in itself a minor miracle.
Questions like why wasn’t anyone in the Congressional entourage armed? or where was the security to protect these members of Congress?, loom large. In today’s hyper violent and terrorist filled and inspired world didn’t anyone stop to think that these unarmed people in broad daylight on an open baseball filed in a public park in Virginia might be sitting ducks for someone with violent malice in his heart like this Hodgkins fellow?
Valid questions all.
But I want to focus on something else. Something that impacts the even bigger picture of the state of our society today. As I noted at the outset of today’s blog, words do matter. Tremendously and measurably.
And it’s time, way past time actually, for everyone, but especially those of us in our society who command a public platform to realize that words matter. And to pause, take a deep breath and dial down the extremist political, hateful and violent rhetoric . Way down.
Simple really. It’s not just that the words, the phrases, the life metaphors we choose that matter in some vague or abstract way. No. The words we choose actually have a profound biochemical effect on our mood, our thinking, our bodies, our actions.
Certain words produce what physiologists tell us are “biochemical markers” in our bodies and those with whom we communicate. Such words and phrases can produce emotionally positive or negative effects. In the extreme they can literally cause us to block or ignore societal or civil filters and move us rapidly to act without any impulse control.
In short, words matter so much they can mean the difference between life and death.
Next time you are upset with someone note the difference between calling them a “liar” and simply choosing to say they are “mistaken.” Both on your own mood and that of the person with whom you are communicating. Next time life throws you a “bump in the road” go ahead and describe yourself as “furious” or “outraged” then try describing yourself as a “bit peeved.” See if your body notices the differing commands on how to respond and feel. And even act.
Why so much about words and metaphors?
Because the world is a violent place. And when our leaders “up the ante” or “raise the political stakes” of whose public policy should be preferred in our political arena by choosing extreme metaphors like saying “there should be blood in the streets” or “resist until death” or casually tossing F-bombs in their public speeches or beheading the president in a realistic manner for the cameras or filming a “mock killing” in a music video or more recently staging a Broadway play which features a murder of our president it sends a very powerful and perilous message:
Go ahead it says, give in to and act upon your deepest rage, your hatred, your frustrations. This type of extremist political rhetoric assures us that it’s okay, these “people” aren’t really “people.” They are not real, they are fascists and Nazis and we “are at war.” And “they” must be stopped at “all costs” and “by any means necessary.”
And then what follows in a highly charged, divisive, poisonous, highly armed political climate becomes inevitable doesn’t it?
It’s wrong when people abuse free speech by engaging in a mock lynching of our president as some did during President Obama’s tenure and it’s no less wrong to engage in similar speech and action during President Trump’s tenure.
Protesting is a constitutionally protected act. But engaging in actions advocated by leaders like Ms. Felarca’s BAM (By Any Means Necessary) like imposing physical beatings on those they disagree with or setting fire to buildings or destroying property isn’t conducive to a democratic society. It doesn’t reinforce our most sacred values it frays at them until they tear. And it crosses the line from constitutionally protected speech and right to assemble and into unprotected and illegal violence. Pure and simple.
It’s hard isn’t it to disagree with someone or some other party about politics and policy without “turning up the heat” of your own political rhetoric? Without getting “outraged” and “furious?”
But the future of our society, our collective security may very well depend on doing just the opposite of what far too many of our political leaders, our media pundits and our celebrities have been calling for recently in their own overheated and hateful rhetoric.
Today as his family prays for his recovery, US Congressman Steve Scalise, the US House Majority Whip, a husband and a father to his children was shot because in large part James Hodgkins couldn’t control his rage. Armed with a high powered rifle and motivated by his own political hatred, and in part, no doubt fueled by overheated and needlessly dangerous rhetoric he apparently saw no other outlet to resolve his frustration, his vile hatred than by shooting at “symbols” at “Nazis” at “Fascists” as they played that most American of pastimes on a beautiful park in Virginia.
Don’t get me wrong here. Celebrities on the left like Kathy Griffin or Alec Baldwin who defended her faux beheading of the president by saying “F%%% them all…they get what they deserve” or CNN host Iranian-American Reza Aslan who tweeted that the president was a “piece of Shi%” or Antifascists who drove spikes into police horses in NYC after chanting “burn down the White House” or actress Lea DeLaria who threatened to “take out every God d*** Republican with a baseball bat” or HBO producer David Simon who urged supporters to “pick up a brick if Trump fires Mueller” actor Mickey Rourke who threatened to “bust Trump up with a baseball bat” or even US Senator Gillibrand who in a public speech said “F***k the president did not pull the trigger yesterday. They did not ambush innocent, unarmed men and women on a baseball practice field in a public park in Virginia.
But to pretend that they along with those on the far right who spew violent, overheated political rhetoric do not foster and fan the flames of hatred and rage amongst those in our society least able to control themselves from acting upon such rage is profoundly and dangerously naïve.
And we all pay the price for such rhetorical recklessness.
Yesterday it was Steve Scalise and his colleagues and aides who paid the price.
Who will it be today?
It’s time to dial down the rhetoric.
Because if everything truly causes you outrage then in reality nothing does.
Try being a “little peeved” for a change.
The future of our rapidly deteriorating civil society may just depend on it.