A lot of words are being exchanged in the wake of the January 8 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that left six dead, several injured and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) fighting for her life.
One of Giffords' fellow congressmen explained in an interview that violence is an inexcusable way to affect change and used congressional debate as an example of how to sensibly reach conclusions. Debate can get passionate, at times, he suggested, but noted it was "only words."
Interestingly, the kind of words that may have prompted a deranged young man to go on a killing rampage are similar to ones some people now are using to deny that passionate, angry, hateful, incitive words bear any responsibility if they motivated Jared Loughner to buy an automatic weapon and engage in a deadly massacre of innocents.
The kind of rhetoric and the level of rhetoric in modern-day partisan politics are hardly innocent. These words and messages are intended to influence people in ways that produce passion, partisanship, anger and hate, and incite people to take radical action. In fact, campaigns spend hundreds of millions of dollars for mass media messages that will do just that. For some, the nastier the better.
Usually it seems the only thing political adversaries can be bipartisan about is nasty and distasteful rhetoric, a common thread in political life.
All of us are influenced by words -- which ones are used and how they are used. Words can be used to prompt riots and wars, but words also can be used to affect sensible and civilized change and bring peace. They can be used to wound, or they can be used to heal. Had it not been for powerful words, the American colonies would never have declared independence from England.
"Only words" is an oxymoron.
Perhaps I've missed it, but I have heard not one elected leader even suggest he or she is apologetic for personally using language that is below appropriate discourse and commit to be an agent of meaningful change. Instead, we continue to hear denials, with some suggesting even those are only words.