Yesterday’s tragic shooting in Tucson has given me much pause for thought. See, I’m part of the problem in some sense.
I don’t carry a gun to political rallies (or anywhere else). I don’t publicly call for the “targeting” of politicians or the use of “Second Amendment remedies”. But in private? In private, with my closest friends, I’ve been known to say some pretty horrible things about what I want to happen to the Tea Party and its “leaders” and “spokespersons”. I’ve been known to have some pretty unfriendly words about Republicans and what I’d “like” to happen to them.
Now, I’d like to think that my anger is righteous at times. These people want to deny health care to poor people while enriching oil company executives. These people scream about how important it is that we go out and fight the terrorists and call us un-American if we don’t, yet when gay Americans want to do so, most Republicans fought tooth and nail to make sure they couldn’t.
I often feel like these people have forgotten the First Amendment in favor of their beloved Second Amendment (as if one had to choose) because they’d like to see this country — a secular one which should promote no religion — turned into Jesusland. I am not a Christian, and I do not take kindly to any suggestion that that makes me less of an American. I am an American (despite the best efforts of neoconservatives to make me reconsider that). I draw inspiration from several religions, or none, on each subject as my own personal conscience and reflection guide me. And I will come back to that at the end of this piece.
But violence is not the solution. The solution is the one proposed by a character in one of my favorite movies: “Let him rave on, that men shall know him mad.” The solution is to allow dated ideologies to wither on the vine. The solution is to allow moral bankruptcy to be seen for what it is. The solution is to ensure that hypocrites are shamed into submission and silence in the arena of public discourse, not forced into it at the barrel of a gun or the point of a (long) knife, or intimidated into it by having crosshairs put over their images on websites.
I do think one side of the political divide in America is much, much more at fault than the other. I do not think the guilt is equally shared. I do think the side which spends so much of its time braying about their “cold dead hands” and “Second Amendment solutions” are the ones who bear the bulk of the responsibility. At least one nominally Democratic politician, trying to pander to his conservative constituents and to distance himself from progressives, made a campaign commercial in which he literally fires a gun at a piece of legislation. So yes. My indictment is mostly directed at conservatives.
But I am not innocent in this. One of the most ancient religions on our planet, Zoroastrianism, teaches a very simple ethical principle: Good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. My private thoughts, and my private words, for Republicans, the Tea Party, and conservatives have been very uncharitable indeed. And that must stop.
I am not advocating that liberals (or conservatives) waive their rights to self-defense (or even to arm themselves for that purpose). But I now renounce the violence, the aggression, of my own rhetoric. Private though they may have been, bad thoughts and bad words are a precursor to bad deeds … if not by me, then by someone, whom I may not even know, who would be influenced by my bad thoughts and bad words in time.
On his special comment last night, Keith Olbermann said:
Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our Democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or any thing in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence. Because for whatever else each of us may be, we all are Americans.
If I may be permitted, respectfully, to choose words from the creed of Zoroastrianism, and make it non-sectarian:
I forswear the company of those who do harm to any being by thoughts, words, acts, or outward signs. I pledge myself to the well-thought thought; I pledge myself to the well-spoken word; I pledge myself to the well-done deed. I pledge myself to a way of life which throws off attacks; a way of life which causes weapons to be laid down; a way of life which is just. This is my creed.