Monday, January 10, 2011

Like Listening to Kids Bicker

I was skimming an article on Huffington Post about how the past few generations of Americans have taught me and mine to eschew responsibility. The author, Dr. Mark Goulston, offers as evidence a hypothetical conversation amounting in a teenager telling their parent they will take responsibility for their actions. When the adult presses for a definition of "take responsibility," the teenager responds, "I'll say I'm sorry."

Feeling remorse is not, in and of itself, taking responsibility but is the first step in doing so. Even a child can realize and acknowledge a connection between his or her actions and the next step of causality. Sarah Palin cannot, and I'm wondering if I've done such a bang-up job myself.

As you probably know, Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords was recently the target of a madman with a gun. This violence has shocked the country and it is, like any shooting, a tragedy.

Of course, Sarah Palin had nothing directly to do with it, but there is a link between Giffords and Palin: Palin had put out a map which prompted voters to oust politicians who had voted for the Obama health care reform, and Giffords' district was one of the targeted. The map used crosshairs to mark these districts.

A reasonable person will say that Palin is in no way responsible for what happened in Arizona, and I'm inclined to agree. No sane person would see this map and think they should kill the residing Congressperson. That much is clear, but I do think this even should give us pause to consider where American politics are heading.

Even making an abstract based on violence is hateful speech and wrong. I'm not saying we don't have the right to use hate speech, but we all know we shouldn't. In a small sense, I wonder what Palin was thinking when she approved that map with crosshairs, how she would, if needed, explain it to her children. In macro, we have all gotten acclimated to the idea of threatening people who disagree with us and lowering their value as human beings.

We need to take responsibility for our actions, and that includes what we say. Even a child knows how to do that.

According to this article, though, Sarah Palin doesn't. While an aide of hers protests that the symbols on the map were never meant to portray gun sights, Palin herself said that her followers should "reload."

Palin's backpedaling is reprehensible, but it reminds me of something I said just last night. I was talking to a friend about House Republicans reading the Constitution in session and wasting everyone's time and I told her, "being angry with Republicans for making a false show of patriotism is like the girl who put the snake in her coat and got mad at it when it bit her." To put a fine tip on it, I implied, "Republicans=snakes." And that was reprehensible.

It's time for all of us to stop dehumanizing our political opponents and start talking like civilized people.

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