It’s Not Just Planned Parenthood….

Planned Parenthood. San Bernardino.

America averages one mass shooting every day.  We seem unable to address the paralysis on guns that allows any crank, psychopath or terrorist to acquire instruments of death and destruction, so we discuss every other issue involved, from policing to mental health systems. In the wake of the attack on Planned Parenthood, we’ve focused upon the effects of vitriol, propaganda and reckless accusations.

So let’s “go there.” Does rhetoric really matter?

When we were children, most of us chanted that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” Even in childhood, we knew that wasn’t true; the wounds that leave the most long-lasting scars are frequently caused by insulting or hurtful words. Not infrequently, bodies heal faster than psyches.

There are obvious consequences to toxic and uncivil discourse: when we substitute epithets for reasoned argument, we neither convince nor converse in any meaningful sense. The question we need to confront–the issue that people like Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump dismiss as “liberal bias”–is whether a constant drumbeat of nastiness, prevarication and incitement leads less-than-stable folks to “act out.”

The recent attack on Planned Parenthood is the latest in a string of assaults on that agency that have been encouraged, if not caused, by incessant dishonest and inflammatory rhetoric. A recent attack on a Muslim taxicab driver is another horrifying example.

The passenger began asking the driver about his background, and whether he was a ‘Pakistani guy.’” He also asked the driver “about the terror group ISIS” and mocked the prophet Muhammad.

The driver, who moved to Pittsburgh from Morocco five years ago, told the Post-Gazette that he is three months away from becoming a U.S. citizen. His plan is to bring his wife to the United States and start a family in the country he considers home.

I’m a free speech purist. Both the Constitution and common sense tell me that reducing the level of public bile is not something we can achieve by passing a law.

As difficult as it is, we need to challenge the culture that encourages expressions of bigotry and hate. We need to remind people that it is possible to express a point of view without becoming part of the problem; that it is possible to disagree without lying, slandering or justifying horrific behaviors.

In a more reasonable culture, we might even be able to do something about our ridiculously easy access to guns….


  1. Stuart! I must first be clear that I am very distressed about even one mass shooting, but gun-control activists harm their cause when they exaggerate the information they report. Apparently, the report you and Sheila reference includes domestic violence and drug war battles in their mass shooting statistics. According to the FBI, there have been 41 mass shootings in 2015. Also worthy of note is the fact that the weapons used in San Bernardino are already illegal in California and NOT automatic weapons

  2. Ken,
    The big discrepancy between the FBI numbers and is in the definition. The FBI only counts these when 4 or more are killed. That limits the count. If my two siblings were murdered when a shooter entered a restaurant, and also wounded 5 people, the FBI would not count that as a mass shooting, but I along with most of the public would differ. The FBI numbers only mask the disaster.

    And while I certainly would not argue with you about the weapons being automatic in San Bernadino, had the guy brought a .22 in this case and all the other ones, those people would be dead or wounded, and it would be a mass shooting in everyone’s book but the FBI.

  3. Stuart! The 355 also counts gang wars and domestic violence where enough people are killed. It is my belief that if the activists would turn down the rhetoric as well as the accusatory tone toward those who disagree, we might see some progress. It is impossible to mention or explore changes in social security without being parodied throwing granny off a cliff. It is no one’s intention to see the poor dying in the street, but any mention of a need to revamp ACA brings on such accusations. I would welcome such discussions and would listen to your explanation of my errors while explaining your errors. We may or may not resolve the dispute, but at least might understand one another a bit better

  4. Ken, staying on the subject, reviewing the entire list of 354 shootings is not something I am about to do, but apparently you know who or what source actually did that and concluded that many of them were gang wars and domestic violence. Can you share that?

    We know the names of at least 60 individuals have been shown to be attackers, but that well over 280 are unknown. I can agree that Chicago (14 shootings and 10 deaths) and Los Angeles (4 shootings and 5 deaths) might have some gang related deaths, but I don’t know about the rest. The DOJ reports that 13% of gun deaths are gang related (Chicago and Los Angeles are not representative of the rest of the country).

    This is an awful lot of incidents where someone has entered a public place and killed or maimed over 1700 people. We need to look at that closely and understand what is going on, especially if the public, reacting to one (San Bernadino) event leads them to think all public shootings are ISIL related, when we know that only two of the known 60 had Middle Eastern names (the most recent being one of them).

  5. Stuart,

    “……only two of the known 60 had Middle Eastern names (the most recent being one of them).”

    Like you said to to Ken, we need to stay on this subject and so does all America. We have to face up to the fact of how bad things REALLY are before its too late.

    It’s not only ISIS and the Syrians. They’re only a small part of the problem. This problem has the potential to eventually override our ability to deal with all our other serious problem like global warming etc.

  6. Stuart! I don’t recall the source, it was in the article citing FBI discrepancy and that was how the difference was explained. I’m with you that we must focus on fixing the problems. The biggest obstacle to progress on this or any other problem is the inflammatory rhetoric used by both sides. I call it the Sean Hannity/Chris Matthews style of debate. “You’re stupid!” “You’re evil!” Accomplishes nothing. I started following this blog in hopes of engaging is such discussions. I knew I was not going to get much agreement but the first step to working together is discussion. Thanks for engaging. Hope we can do it again

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