Watching our words

There’s a children’s song I remember. It goes through the significant body parts, starting out with “Oh, be careful little ears, what you hear…” and going through eyes, hands, feet. That first verse and another verse that goes “Oh, be careful little mouth, what you say” have really stuck with me since the weekend’s shooting tragedy in Arizona.

We’ve had mixed messages about the power of words in our country for many, many years. Advertisers spend millions of dollars on words and pictures to influence what we buy…and yet when questions have been raised about the influence of violence and sex in movies, the almost knee-jerk response is that those things can’t possibly influence us. Huh? We can’t have it both ways!

For people who are emotionally and psychologically balanced, perhaps there is less influence on their thoughts and actions from what they read and see. But for those who are emotionally or psychologically fragile, those words…those visuals…may be what drives them over the edge.

I’m not a psychiatrist, so my thoughts could be dismissed as having no validity. But it seems to me that as our political discourse has gotten more vitriolic, so has our society. I know that there are undoubtedly other factors involved as well, but how many times does someone who’s fragile need to hear statements–or see images–like we heard and saw in this last campaign before they decide that they need to act on them?

When we talk about “taking someone out” or “having someone in the crosshairs,” we could charitably say that we’re talking metaphorically–and perhaps the individual is. But at some point, hearing that over and over is going to be the thing that will push a fragile someone over the edge into violence.

And then suddenly everyone begins to backtrack. No, of course they weren’t advocating violence…violence isn’t the solution…where did anyone get that idea?

Maybe…just maybe…we wouldn’t have more victims like

  • Gabby Clifford–someone liked on both sides of the aisle, who was able to work with people from both parties
  • Judge John Roll, a respected judge
  • Christine Green, an active 9-year-old who wanted to grow up to help people–a child who was born on 9/11/01 and who died in yet another tragedy
  • Jared Lee Loughner, the young man who pulled the trigger

if we paid more attention to that childhood song and were careful with what we say.

3 thoughts on “Watching our words

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