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January 9, 2011 at 6:30 AM

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Turn down the hate speech

Posted by Joni Balter

If ever there were a moment for mourning lives lost and self-reflection about the current level of heated national discourse, this is it.

The horrific killing of six people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, and the injuring of 13 more innocents, in Arizona, including critically ill Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, should give every angry letter writer, emailer and talk show host in the mean-spirited rhetoric biz big pause. It is time to turn down the dragon-breath speech that has permeated American political dialogue.

Sarah Palin is toast. It will be noted for months that her political action committee posted gun sights on a map highlighting certain members of Congress, including Rep. Giffords. (Scroll down... Palin removed the map from her own site). Obviously Palin did not shoot innocent people at a Safeway store. Some deranged youg man in Arizona did, perhaps with an accomplice. But Palin was an over-rated showboater before the shootings. Now she is a national embarrassment.
As a nation, we have to find more sophisticated ways to disagree without spewing references to guns and harming people.
Giffords' is a well-loved moderate Democrat. She strongly opposed the state's overbearing, spiteful immigration law. Windows in her office in Tucson were shot out or broken in an act of vandalism.
The 22-year-old-suspect may have been a garden variety nut who didn't like government and had too easy access to guns. Deranged people simply may not be able to process overheated talk. And Arizona has had too much of it. Listen to the press conference by the sheriff in Pima County, Clarence Dupnik, who said Arizona has become a mecca for anger and hate speech.
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I feel terrible for Giffords and her family and the six individuals who died and their heartbroken families. I feel for the family of the federal judge.
All Americans should worry about the level of mean-spirited speech so prevalent on our airwaves and in our culture. Will this incident mean members of Congress become reluctant to go into their communities to talk to people? What an awful development for democracy. What's next? Metal detectors for community forums? Pope-mobiles for political candidates?
The long-term political ramifications of this unspeakable event will roll out over time. For now, we need to turn down the white hot speech and mourn the innocent lives lost and the chill imposed on elected officials who need to feel safe meeting their constituents

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