01 June 2009

For Every Right - An Equal and Corresponding Responsibility

For every right we enjoy as free people there is a corresponding responsibility. Nowhere is this more important and critical than in our guarantee of freedom of speech. Yes, we have the right to speak our mind, but we do not have the right to shout fire in a crowded theater if no fire exists.

Today we are faced with yet again another violent act in which there is the extreme likelihood that a misguided and unstable person was driven to an incomprehensible act by inflammatory hate-speech from the right-wing.

In this instance it was the murder this week-end of Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider, by at least one anti-abortion extremist. About this time last year it was the murder of two Unitarians in Tennessee because they were too liberal. One of the things setting apart these killings was that each happened while the victims were at church. Another is that right-wing hate speech surrounds and most likely contributed to both events.

In the Tennessee murders investigators found right-wing and hate-group writings and pamphlets along with references to the Fox cable news network. In the Kansas case, Dr. Tiller was the target of a vendetta by Fox News blowhard, Bill O'Reilly.

Folks, we have a responsibility to temper our speech because those who hear it and act on it make us complicit in their unworthy deeds of criminal insanity. If we dehumanize and characterize those with which we disagree as “murderers” we run the risk of inciting to action those among us who have the ability and mentality to perform great violence. In effect, we provide them permission to act on the whispered commands of their inner demons.

See the O'Reilly clip below, and ask yourself, “At what point does responsibility to the greater good of society trump one’s right to speak one’s mind”?

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