Words Do Matter: A Ms. Foundation Statement on the Arizona Shooting

With the rest of the nation, the Ms. Foundation for Women was shocked and horrified by the tragic events that took place this past weekend in Tucson, Arizona. Though we don't yet know the specific motivation behind these shootings, we do know that they took place in a state where violent political rhetoric has become dangerously commonplace. Where violent speech is the norm, violent action inevitably follows; where the value of some lives is diminished, the worth of all life is irreparably harmed. And given Arizona's position as the epicenter of a movement that is anti-immigrant, racist and growing, the events of this weekend may turn out to be not just heartbreakingly predictable, but also just the beginning of a new, increasingly violent political era.

 

We will wait, along with all of you, to learn more about what compelled the young man responsible for these crimes to act in such a hugely destructive way. But this we know for sure: the culture that he lived and breathed each day -- Arizona's culture; America's culture -- was one that devalued the worth of immigrants, questioned the rights of women, people of color and LGBTQ individuals to live their freest, fullest lives, and put political figures within cross-hairs for elimination. Under those circumstances, it is only a miracle that we don't see actions like his each and every day.

 

What we all must learn from this sorrowful chain of events is that words -- in that simple old adage -- do indeed matter. They create the world that all of us live in and respond to, sometimes in ways that bring out the best in human nature, and sometimes in ways that bring out the very worst. If we hope to have fewer such days that reduce us to shock over the latter, we must work to build a world where violent rhetoric -- on the political stage, against women, immigrants or any other -- is no longer tacitly accepted as clever verbal volleying. We must once and for all reject the politics of violence, rhetorical and otherwise, because lives, we understand ever more profoundly today, are quite literally at stake.

 

For those who made the utmost sacrifice in that parking lot, and those still struggling to survive, we -- and our political leaders -- should be able to give at least that much.

 

(To access original statement, visit this Ms. Foundation for Women link.)

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