Words have power. They can inspire greatness, evoke emotion and instill confidence. They can also fan the flames of hatred, create anger and incite violence.
This is why what you say matters.
There has been a lot of discussion about how Person A’s statements about such and such played a role in the death of six innocent people. We will never truly know if this is the case. It is very likely this was the act of a sick young man who did not receive the help he needed. But even if his actions were motivated by any one person’s words, they can not be taken back. Pointing fingers will not bring back three people in their seventies. Spewing venom will not return a young staffer to his fiance’s side. Assigning blame will not return a dedicated public servant to his place on a federal court bench. Being angry will not allow a 9 year-old girl who loved ballet and baseball to grow up and make her mark on this world.
Anger, hatred and fear are the causes of this tragedy. The only way to stem the tide of violence is to combat them. Which means we can not succumb to them.
We need to respond to anger with understanding. Answer hatred with acceptance. Face fear with strength.
And we need to hold each other accountable when we fail. We need to call out our opponents and our supporters when they attack one another. We need to be clear that hateful speech has no place in civilized discourse. We need to respect the opinions and beliefs of others even when we can’t understand them.
When we see members of our communities who are becoming lost in anger and hatred and fear, we have to reach out. We have to offer help. We have to provide support. Because when we fail the members of our community who need us the most, tragedies happen.
It is not enough to say it isn’t my problem. It is no longer acceptable to stay out of it. We can not remain apathetic to the attitudes and behaviors that are tearing our communities apart.
What can we do? Be thoughtful in our speech and actions. Stop shrugging off hateful speech. Stop feeding hatred. Support our communities. Stop ignoring warning signs because it is easier than dealing with them. Encourage reasonable debate and civilized discourse.
Be what you expect of others because it starts with you.