In 1170 King Henry said something along the lines of "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" or "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?" Six months later Thomas a Beckett was murdered by men believing that they had done what their king wanted. Thomas was canonized by the church, King Henry was punished and the English crown was weakened for some time as a result of Henry’s thoughtless words. We as a country need to learn this lesson- words are powerful, especially when they come from powerful figures.
In case you don’t know exactly where this post is going, I’ll fill in a little background info. Yesterday at a political rally in Arizona, a man opened fire and killed six people (twelve are injured including Rep. Giffords the politician involved). One of those killed was a little girl who begged her parents to take her to the rally because she wanted to learn more about politics because she wanted to be a politician. She had become interested in politics as she got old enough to understand the significance of her birthday – September 11, 2001.
You may recall that I wrote a few posts on this subject prior to the last election, but I never posted the final two entries I had written on the topic. One of the posts I never posted was about exactly this. When we are so divided and no one listens to anyone else and people in position of respect and power (like our newscasters) are saying things like “Don’t retreat, reload” (Palin) or drawing crosshairs over the faces of politicians they don’t agree with (Palin again) or “We will use bullets if ballots don’t work” (Schultz on Meet the Press) or saying someone can’t go home or “he’s a dead man” (Boehner), it’s time to double check our priorities. On the MSNBC website I found this quote “intemperate rhetoric from politicians and from news media personalities might encourage some individuals to act violently”. I don’t think that goes far enough, because I don’t think there’s any “might” about it. When you threaten violence, even if it’s just a rhetorical device, you have still threatened violence.
I think Kristin put my thoughts into words best as we AIMed about this tonight. “There should be some sort of legal ramifactions for public figures who announce others should be "taken out." They might mean it metaphorically, but wackadoodles have taken them literally far too many times for it to be excused.” If I told you on this blog that I intended on killing someone, and then that person wound up dead through suspicious means, I guarantee that the police are going to come question me. But apparently if you say that you think someone should be hurt or killed and someone ELSE does what you said, you aren’t responsible for that and I don’t think that’s right. I think we all need to make responsible choices, and threatening public figures is not a responsible choice.