Take a moment to read the following article:
Now, ask yourself: where to start?
I will begin with an open letter to one Sarah Palin:
Dear Ms. Palin,
I can only imagine how disconcerting it may be to hear critics connect a truly awful act like the shooting in Tucson to a political publication, however ill-chosen, for which you were responsible. I will back you on encouraging people to not draw a direct line of causation between the two.
That is where my support of you ends. You see, your statement is both wrong sociologically and offensive on religious grounds. Well done.
As for your sociological mistakes: Did you catch the qualifier I mentioned about the causation? DIRECT. Given all of the evidence surfacing about Mr. Loughner, we cannot say that he saw the map and said, “Well, there ya go, there’s my next target.” That would be a direct line of causation.
What you don’t seem to realize is that Reagan was wrong. Once you’ve gotten over being taken aback at such a blasphemous statement read on and I’ll explain. “Society” as you use the term does not hold full culpability for individual’s actions, but we are in a continual process of shaping and being shaped by society. (See Berger and Luckmann) The metaphors we use, such as “target” to refer to our political opponents, shape the way we think. (See Lakoff and Johnson)
You cannot wash your hands of the role you’ve played in framing the way we think about those with different political viewpoints. You as much as anyone are indeed culpable for helping create a society where it is acceptable to think in violent metaphors. A little nuanced, critical thinking is all it would take to see that a more appropriate response than trying to make it loud and clear that you didn’t send the gunman would be to say, “It’s unfortunate that this happened and in response I am going to reconsider the metaphors I use so that I might help shape a less violent political culture.”
While I’m on religious symbolism. “Blood Libel”?!?!?!?!? Really?!?!?!? If you chose this term because you were ignorant of the history and connotations associated with it please, please, please make an effort to learn about anti-Semitism in our world. If you knew and still chose it–I’m dumbfounded. Not only is the link between the critics statement and blood libel inaccurate and inappropriate it is outright offensive and insensitive. Blood libel has historically resulted in vast suffering and persecution of religious minorities.
Being called out on your choice of metaphor is in NO WAY the same as claiming Jewish people use the blood of Christian children in their rituals. While you may be experiencing a bit of distress from the news pundit’s comments, to link your suffering to such atrocities as the Holocaust through your choice of this particular metaphor is what is reprehensible.
The words we use have power. I call on you to rescind your statement and issue an apology. Then, I encourage you to educate yourself on basic social theory and religious traditions.
Melissa James, Ph.D. (Cand.)
Diaconal Minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America