metaphor: a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our god.”
Sticks and stones might break my bones but words will never hurt me. ~Nursery rhyme
The recent tragedy in Arizona managed to unleash the pundits on both sides of the aisle. In this world where there must be a root cause for every wrinkle in the landscape and every calamity that befalls us, everyone who was anyone rushed in to insert their two-cents’ worth. The reportage began with word that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was hit, then not hit, that she was dead and then not dead. In the world of 24/7 reporting, the networks tend to go with initial reports that are deemed as being reliable, until, of course, they are proved not.
I had to let the dust settle on the massacre before I could make any judgments, and I still haven’t made any. I don’t trust pundits; analysis is subjective, and analysis not based on factual evidence is usually faulty. The news is nothing more than shilling for both sides, for ratings as well as advertising, and should be taken not with a grain of sodium but with a snow plow’s worth of salt.
Liberals were quick to blame inflammatory conservative rhetoric for the unstable mind and subsequent murderous actions of Jared Loughner. Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck — they all took the fall as being to cause for this poor man’s sudden snap. They overlook the fact that there is and was plenty of explosive left wing hyperbole coming from that camp as well, which includes killing presidents, wishing vice presidents dead, the rape of a certain Secretary of State, and hoisting someone up by their entrails. They ignore that our President has used the same type of speech.
This is not to say that either side is guilty of inciting the violence of Tucson or anywhere else. Reasonable people who feel passionately about anything are apt to use imaginative prose to get their point across. As a person who enjoys words, reading and writing, I’ve been guilty of writing in such a manner, but it’s because I write only when I feel passion about my subject.
From all reports, it appears the shooter suffers from an extreme mental disability. According to his college classmates and professors, Loughner has had a long history of strange and menacing behavior. His friends say he was not much of a news junkie and did not like TV. He was a registered Independent. In the modern world where actions and problems must be compartmentalized into neat, viable solutions, any TV-hating, wacko, registered Independent should be watched closely for signs of dangerous behavior. This is silly talk. I hate TV and I’m a registered Independent (although I lean Libertarian these days). Although quite a few people would say I am wacky, it doesn’t mean I’m going shoot up my congressman.
What some people are loathe to say is probably the most accurate description of this tragic massacre: that Jared Loughner is a nut case and decided to take out his gun because he’s crazy. Insane. Mentally disturbed. Delusional. Psychotic. He shot up a Safeway on a Saturday morning not because he was tormented by one party’s flaming words or another, not because he was a terrorist, but because he was demented.
To borrow a phrase and turn it around, “Metaphors don’t kill people; people kill people.”
Political correctness has run amok. There is a movement afoot to protect Congress by limiting the type of language and symbols that can be used in discourse with them. Although I understand the concern of both elected representatives and their families, I completely disagree with this. Some of my best letter-writing rants are directed toward my elected officials. I want and need them to know when I am not happy with them, not every two or four or six years, but as the whim hits me. They should welcome the discourse, not limit it; after all, they serve us.
If such legislation is passed, will we have to amend our language? Discontinue words like ‘target’ and ‘crosshairs?’ Refrain from using any references to killing, battle, or war? And if we persist, what then? Will we, The People become targets ourselves, investigated and placed on watch lists for our use of English?
Disagreements and healthy debate is one thing; wishing specific ill-will is another. I have heard talk on both sides that make me cringe. Still, as much as it bothers me I would not give up my right to Freedom of Speech just because the speech might be offensive to someone. And while I may not agree with what’s being said, I firmly defend the right to say it. Same thing goes with the right to bear arms. I don’t like handguns, but I defend your right to own one.
I wonder what Mark Twain would say. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was recently ‘cleaned up’ of any words that the reader might find to be offensive, such as the ‘N’ word and a reference to Native Americans that was popular back in the 1800′s. I don’t know if Mark Twain was a bigot; I’d like to think he was not, but was only spinning a yarn. One thing is certain; there is no way to learn from the mistakes of our past if we sanitize it. I personally do not care for the ‘N’ word, especially the way it is bandied about these days, but rap artists have every right to include the word in their lyrics.
I can think of bigger tragedies of the Tucson shooting of more importance than the power of words. One would be the loss of so many lives; a judge, a nine-year-old born on 9-11, a man protecting his wife, the horrific shooting and wounding of so many innocent people. While not defending his actions, another would be that a young adult, living in his parents’ home, could be told to leave school because of his disturbing behavior and not get any treatment for the demons that were haunting him.
It is sticks and stones that break our bones, and it’s not the words that wield the weapons — it’s the people behind them.