Tucson shootings & political rhetoric

Conservative polemics are being blamed for the shooting in Tucson that critically wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed nine others, including a judge and a little girl. The killer shows clear symptoms of insanity, though, and was evidently motivated by schizophrenia rather than politics. And the liberals are ignoring their own history of demonizing their opponents and violent rhetoric. (There was a book, a play, and a movie fantasizing the assassination of George W. Bush.)

But still. . . .Do you think our polarized politics and the inflammatory rhetoric from both sides might have created a climate that could push a lunatic over the edge so that he actually does what many people have been advocating metaphorically? Or even if that is unlikely to happen, does our rhetoric create a negative ethos that is harmful to the country? Or is the problem greatly exaggerated? (We see great animosity in our entertainment media, but don’t we get along pretty well with our neighbors and family members despite political differences?)

Some lawmakers are proposing special laws against threats or symbols of threats (e.g., the tea-party cross-hairs targeting enemy politicians) against office holders or political figures.

Is there an ethical issue in the use of flamethrowing rhetoric? Does it violate the commandment against bearing false witness, as the Small Catechism defines it? (“We should fear and love God, so that we do not lie about, betray or slander our neighbor, but excuse him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.”)

What do you think?


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