If I were to step out onto my front porch with a megaphone, every day, and start shouting about how the only way to save my neighborhood was to “do something” and “take a stand” against one particular family on the block, what would happen? If I were to put posters in my windows showing that particular house and put giant images that resembled rifle-scopes over that particular house, would that mean anything? If 99 out of 100 people who walked by dismissed me and laughed at me, but one person, say a 22-year-old male, heard me and took what I said to heart, would that lead to consequences? If that one male was mentally disturbed and, even though I never directly advocated violence against that one house, he decided that the only way to “do something” and “take a stand” against that one family was to sneak over there one night and burn the house down, what then? If one or more family members died in that fire, what then?
Would I be justified in throwing up my hands and saying, “He did it!” “I never said that he should do that!” Would you believe that? Or would you applaud as the police came to my house and arrested me and carted me off?
Words have consequences. Yes, we have freedom of speech in this country and I make my living believing in that. If we did not have free speech, I would never be able to make my living as a writer without that right. However, with that right comes a tremendous amount of responsibility. Just because you are allowed to say something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD say something.
I am not saying that anyone should necessarily be held responsible for what happened in Arizona against a member of the House of Representatives on January 8, 2011, other than a man named Jared Lee. He is obviously a severely mentally disturbed individual who needed someone to step in, a long time ago, and provide him with some help. I do, however, believe that the news agencies and politicians in this day and age fostered, through images of violence and revolution, an idea in a disturbed mind that the only solution against the government was that of violence.
Now, of course, conservatives want to throw up their hands and say that they had nothing to do with it. They want to continue to believe that putting rifle target images over Congressional districts with the names of Democratic representatives will amount to nothing. They just want to place blame on the individual and not share any of the responsibility.
The words you say and write have power. Words, quite honestly, probably have more power than the most powerful bomb. Adolf Hitler knew that when he wrote his manifesto “Mein Kampf.” Others, throughout history, have known that. Every great idea first is written down in one form or another. Let us not forget that large portions of the population live their lives, make their decisions, and base their entire existence on written words in the form of religious texts like the Bible and the Koran and others.
Whatever conservatives want to believe, we have to share this planet. We no longer can believe that our country or individual people live in self-contained bubbles. When we say something, do something, hear something, it has consequences. What we say and do affects the people around us. We either have to learn to start accepting other people and living with other people and realizing that we have more in common than we do that separates us or we are going to tear each other apart.
Something should have been done about Jared Lee. His family or his friends should have seen the signs of madness. When he started babbling incoherent statements in a math class at a local community college, someone should have tried to get him help. His family should have been notified and they should have stepped in and tried to help.
We have to realize that this modern society means that we have to look out for each other. That we have to set up systems that will care for one another. We can no longer just slap someone on the back and say “good luck” and then hope that they will be able to find all of the resources needed to pull themselves up and be a good person.
When you speak, you need to take responsibility that your words might affect or influence another person. You must. To then throw up your hands and try to hide behind portions of the Constitution when things you say get taken wrong is the height of irresponsibility. You cannot shout “Fire!” in a theater and you cannot incite a riot, either.
I cannot understand how Conservatives can be so hypocritical. Yes, you cannot take responsibility for your words inciting a man to violence, yet you want me to believe that the words in your Bible are something I should live my life by? You either place someone’s life entirely in their own hands, or you don’t. Either someone is allowed to live their own lives and be responsible for it, or they are supposed to live their lives by the words in your pretty book. Which is it?