When a horrific event like yesterday's shootings in Tucson happen many knee-jerk reactions occur. Accusations fly and often there are as many verbal targets as there were physical ones. Some people will angrily call for fixes, based on their particular point of view. And then people on the "other side" will respond just as angrily. This is understandable, since people are scared and hurt and helpless. No one, in their right mind, likes to see anyone senselessly hurt, and it scares us to see this happen so easily.
I personally believe there are just too many firearms in our society which raises the odds of these tragic events, just like too much brush around houses during fire season raises the odds of people losing their homes. And I think we are often desensitized to violence because of its presence in much of what we see and hear. We see it in games, stories, even cartoons, and forget that in the real world it has severe consequences.
But beyond that there is another issue. All the calls for personal responsibility, from many corners, stop short of asking us to watch our words. The usual response to calls to "ratchet it down" is...as it was yesterday..."that's censorship". One group in the area that has been notably harsh in its rhetoric during the past political campaign stated that it was not going to change the way it spoke, citing free speech rights. I am reminded of the Malcolm quote from Jurrassic Park"your scientists were so preoccupied with what they could do, that they didn't think about whether they should". Just because we can, and thanks to the internet can do it anonymously, doesn't mean we should.
We are blessed with the freedom in this country to say what we think , but with that comes the responsibility to speak wisely. The shooter wasn't some battered veteran of life's bruises and bad breaks who finally snapped and lashed out with a gun. No, he was a kid. barely out of college, not in his right mind, who had obviously been exposed to a lot of vitriolic, hateful words, by those who dump their verbal garbage online with no hint of caring what damage it might do in the wrong hands.
This is not a partisan thing. I don't really care from whence it comes. Hate and hurt know no ideology,no party, no race. And, it is as true today as when I first heard it: "Hurt people'" hurt people. It doesn't matter who "started' it, we have a responsibility to all do our part to try and end it. Think before you speak..and think of who might be listening, and how they might take your words.
This isn't just about violence. Not all wounds are visible. Words themselves can cut and kill. And just because someone doesn't have the means to lash out doesn't mean they are any less injured. Most just hide in the shadows.
As people of faith we are called to build up, to encourage, to strengthen our fellow man. But I think in our quest to be "right" we have forgotten that. We are called to be our "brother's (and sister's) keeper", to make sure our speech is "full of grace", and to "love (our) neighbor as (ourselves)". We each need to ask ourselves again " how do I use my words?" , for none can be truly taken back once they are said (or written).