Political rhetoric needs to change

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“My 1st Congress on Your Corner starts now. Please stop by to let me know what is on your mind or tweet me later.” posted Democtatic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords at 8:58 a.m. on her Twitter Jan. 8 prior to her meeting with constituents outside an Arizona supermarket.  

An hour later six were dead and thirteen more were wounded.  There are many unanswered questions about the motives of suspected gunman Jared Loughner. 

What cannot be questioned is the nasty political rhetoric that has surrounded recent political debates over such issues as healthcare, immigration and education.  In the middle of the debate is 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her map of the United States which “targets” vulnerable Democratic congressional districts and Congress members.  The graphic urged Republicans to “reload” instead of retreating.

“For example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action,” Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC in March 2010.

In light of the shooting, Palin removed the graphic from her Facebook page and replaced it with a video in which she claims she was not “blood libel” for what happened.  The term “blood libel” has been used in the past to claim Jewish people kidnap and murder babies as a sacrifice.  Palin’s use of this term only added fuel to the fire.

While this graphic did not have had a direct hand in the shooting, it does raise the issue of the strength such toxic political rhetoric has within society.

In today’s times, politics holds an extremely prominent place in society.  People stick to their beliefs and do anything to change other people’s beliefs.  Politicians play a big role in this.  Because of this, opposing politicians are relentless in their quest to fight against dissenters. But when does this rhetoric go too far?

There has to be some civility between party lines.  Politicians need to be especially careful as to what they say, the conditions in which they say it, and the way it could possibly come across to their loyal supporters. 

Competition is necessary and acceptable in politics in order to achieve the best America possible. When the rhetoric reaches a point where it is playing a role in people’s irrational behavior, the rhetoric must be turned down a notch. 

Politicians, speech writers, publicists and even we in the media need to be conscientious of the power of words. The rhetoric used in speeches, videos, and even graphics motivates and empowers the general public, and those who are slightly on the edge.

Giffords welcomed a discussion on the corner at the supermarket. She wanted to hear what her constituents wanted to say.  She expected verbal sparring.  She did not know she would end up fighting for her life.