Words have power. They can heal, inspire, initiate forgiveness. Or they can wound, divide and annihilate. My life revolves around words. They are my way of being in the world, my way of processing, making sense of what I observe in this world. Words sustain me, uplift me, encourage me. They have also hurt me, frightened me, devastated me.
Words have power.
Words can move a nation. We look to those we elect for guidance. In times of trouble, we anxiously await their words. Remember waiting for President Bush to speak after 9/11? Whether you voted for him or not, his words meant everything to us as a frightened, grieving country. During World War Two, families gathered around the radio at night waiting eagerly to hear the words of President Roosevelt- their hope hung on his every word. Those words kept America afloat in a sea of despair, as we waited and prayed for our husbands, fathers and sons to return.
Words have power.
They can hold one up in prayer. They can hold a nation together. They can be used to incite war. The words of one can lead a bullied teen to suicide, another to murder…
Words. Have. Power.
I have a few words about some of our elected officials, and their words. I don’t like to engage in negativity, nor to perpetuate the anger and vitriol that’s being tossed about in the political arena. I do my best to ignore the ugliness, aiming toward being part of the solution.
I don’t blame the heinous act of violence yesterday on anyone but Loughner, who is clearly mentally disturbed. But I call out those whose words have hurt the American people and our political system. I call them out for knowingly spreading lies, and fanning the flames of hate and fear solely to further their own political agendas. They must face themselves in the mirror in the aftermath of this tragedy, and reconcile their hateful words.
August 7, 2009: Posted on her facebook page: Seniors and the disabled "will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care."
(This was an egregious lie meant to frighten mothers and senior citizens. It is shameful that we allow our government officials to lie to the public without consequence.)
March 23, 2010: Palin puts a map of the US on her facebook page, targeting twenty democratic members of congress with crosshairs, with an accompanying list of their names.
Simultaneously, she posts on twitter: "Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: 'Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!'
(and by the way, is this statement to suggest that those who are in need of healthcare are NOT lovers of America? What ignorance.)
November 4, 2010, Palin on twitter: “Remember months ago “Bullseye” icon used 2 target the 20 Obama-care Lovin’ incumbent seats? We won 18 out of 20 (90% success rate; T’aint bad.)”
(Although her “people” are denying the crosshairs were meant as anything more, Palin called it what it was, a bullseye.)
(Palin-endorsed Tea Party candidate)
"If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are going to start looking for second amendment remedies...” (second amendment - the right to bear arms) "The first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."
(Chief of staff to Republican Congressman Allen West)
July 4, 2010 : "If ballots don't work, bullets will." (And if West lost the election): "I'm going to go up into the hills of Kentucky, I'm going to go out to the Midwest, I'm going to go up into the Vermont and New Hampshire outreaches and I'm going to gather men and women who understand that some things are worth fighting for and some things are worth dying for."
WORDS. HAVE. POWER.
These words incite fear, anger, insecurity in the American people (and I am deeply ashamed that the above quotes are all from women - the suffragettes must be rolling over in their graves). And to what end? What has it done but to ensure votes for the fear pushers? These words contribute to a sick society, one in which an unbalanced person could be pushed over the edge.
Maybe Loughner was influenced by these hateful words, maybe not. Maybe he had a political agenda, or maybe he’s plain apeshit crazy. Either way, Congresswoman Giffords is in an ICU, her life hanging in the balance. Six are dead, others wounded. Among the dead, a little girl born on 9/11 who had just been elected to her student congress, and only wanted to learn about our political process. She represented America’s future. What unspeakable grief for her family, for all of us. Is this what we are handing down to the next generation?
I’ve said it before: America is a two-party system. We are not meant to annihilate the other party. The system was put in place to ensure healthy debate of differing views, that one party doesn’t become all-powerful. That’s democracy. People seem to have lost sight of this.
Our words must be used to promote reason, to debunk the fear and lies. Let us use our words to promote understanding and solutions.
I will continue to write and voice my opinion in years to come, but I will weigh my words carefully, because I understand all too well - words have power.
I will leave you with these words, spoken today, by more responsible members of Congress.
Democratic congressman James Clyburn, a veteran of the civil rights movement, had this to say, “We're getting ready to celebrate, this weekend, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., who admonished us that we are going to regret in this generation not just the vitriolic words and deeds of bad people, but the appalling silence of good people.”
Let us no longer be silent in the face of hate.
From Republican congressman Trent Franks - “True tolerance is not pretending we have no political differences, it’s treating each other with kindness and respect in spite of those differences.”
And finally, let’s all keep in mind the words of Abraham Lincoln, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
(And by the way Sarah Palin, being a Christian, I’m sure you know that Lincoln took that quote from the bible, Matthew 12:25: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand." Or had you forgotten? You might want to re-read it, some time.)
Words. Have. Power.