Toxic words |

Toxic words

Dear Editor:

I work and live with more than 400 diverse individuals in a remote residential mining facility in interior Alaska. In such an environment, we often need to agree to disagree and set aside differences. Every once in a while, though, I feel compelled to speak out.

On the day of the tragedy in Tucson, I encountered two such incidents. Although most everyone present was appalled by the senseless violence, I was met in one conversation with, “at least now the Democrats might listen up.” In another, someone remarked that, “So what, it was only a Democrat.”

No one can rightfully blame the conservative media for the tragedy. No one, though, can deny that the reactionary, often incendiary rhetoric prevalent in today’s airwaves does not contribute to an atmosphere in which such incidents, and such remarks, may seem understandable and, in the case of what I encountered, even legitimate to some.

“Second Amendment remedies?” Targeting the district of U.S. Rep. Giffords with what are indisputably crosshairs from a gun sight? Airing hours upon hours of cranking up listeners with inane, unfounded conspiracy theories and then claiming that the Left is, and I quote, “asking for” violence? And yes, Obama’s reference during a past campaign of “if they bring a knife, we’ll bring a gun” to the debate? No sensible person can assert that such words and images do not have power and may not have consequences.

I admire those media and public officials who today acknowledge that they may have used such ill-thought references at some point in time. I respect those who acknowledge that, no matter how unintentional or misdirected such comments and imagery might have been, such references do have power. I find optimism and hope in all those that use an inclusive “all of us,” including themselves, when calling for some self-reflection and demanding that we, every one of us, simply stop the inane, hateful rhetoric.

Where the conservative media figures, including my ex-governor, fail, and fail us all miserably, is that they continue to deny that they do, in fact, hold what is very real power. They deny that their words have any real meaning. Their words have just as much meaning as a coworker’s remarking “it was only a Democrat” when reacting to the tragedy in Tucson. They fail us all in simply not acknowledging that they also do have some very real power to ensure that such disturbing acts, and such thoughts and comments, stand out; and certainly stand out in comparison to what seems to pass today in some venues as acceptable political commentary.

Peter Pierson


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