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Sticks and stones....

Agent009's picture
on January 9, 2011 - 5:24am

....may break your bones, but words can kill.
That was the title of a sermon given by a minister at my church when I was about 12. Needless to say, that's a catchy title and it stuck.
So did the message. As trite as it may sound, I do try to make a continuous effort to not spew hatred from my lips. I find that I have a difficult time succeeding in really bad traffic, but as a whole I THINK I'm doing alright.

Yesterday's event in Arizona is causing some churn and buzz regarding how far is too far when it comes to vitriol? When did it stop being enough to just disagree with someone? When did the vocabulary become threatening and violent? Why have we allowed civility to completely be discounted?

All of this political discourse reminded me of a very personal situation. Many years ago, a woman with whom I worked was having trouble in her marriage. Her family had a track record of being pushy control-freaks (it's a small-town. Everyone knows everyone). They did not approve of her separation from her husband.
So, rather than stay with them, the woman was staying in a hotel over the holidays. I asked her if she just wanted to come stay with me for the weekend....give her a chance to be somewhere other than a hotel. She came to stay and seemed grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Her husband wanted to see her, and she reluctantly agreed. He came to pick her up and apparently overheard some of my words of encouragement to her. A few minutes later, I got a phone call from my colleague's mother and sister. They wanted to make sure that I knew what they thought of me....which is to say that I was, in their opinion, a slut, a whore, and several other choice vocabulary words.
I simply stated that they were entitled to their opinion, but I was trying to help and would not be swayed by such silly unfounded accusations. I guess I wasn't supposed to do that, because they immediately launched into threats of violence against me and threats of lies to my boss in order to get me fired from my job. The whole thing was very ugly, with these women on the phone hooting and cheering one another's disgraceful behavior. It felt like a scene from a bad Lifetime movie.....in a prison.....where someone's about to get stuck with a shiv.

When i was thinking of this, it occurred to me that it's a scene not unlike much of today's bad reality TV or public political conversation.....which oddly enough sound a lot alike once you take out the subject matter of the discourse.
How did this happen? When something with which one disagrees is out of one's control, it suddenly becomes okay to speak hatred? Or spew lies and crass insults? Or speak an innuendo or outright threat of violence?

We have to do better. Obviously, I'm starting with myself. I"m going to strive to do better, even with some of my quiet snarkiness. I'm going to teach my son to do better (although, he doesn't really need it much. He has pointed out my quiet snarkiness with a reproachful "Mom, no."
I don't watch the crass reality madness, and will continue to not give it any of my time (advertisers and networks will notice and change it IF we can all sign up for the same)
And politicians: consider yourself on notice. I don't care if I agree with your policy. If I don't agree with your tactics, you do not get my vote. Something you might want to remember when you are creating your ads for the next campaign.

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