By Corinne Wnek
It is less than two weeks into the New Year and tragedy has struck down innocent people in our country once again. This time, the culprit was one of us and not some suicide bomber from the Taliban spewing something like “Allah is good!” just before he blows up everyone in range.
This was a dark presence in Tucson, Arizona, in stark contrast to the natural beauty and color of the region that is, ironically, a popular destination for those seeking an escape to tranquility. When it was over, a congresswoman, shot in the head, was clinging to life and a federal judge and nine-year-old girl, among others, were shot dead. Thirteen other people in the crowd were wounded. Over words.
It seems the gunman had a troubled past. He also had a disturbing preoccupation with language and authority and felt politicians in general do not say what they mean. Too bad that Gabrielle Giffords can’t be reached for comment. She actively spoke out to her peers about tempering fiery, political language so that maybe some crazy out there won’t be tempted to shoot somebody in the head. “What good are words if they have no meaning?” is a quote attributed to the shooter, a relative loner and avid reader of ‘literature’ such as Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
In searching for answers to try to make sense of a senseless act, some people would argue that we are living in a climate of fear. Fear of terrorists, fear of losing our job, fear of being ripped off, fear of aging, fear of commitment, fear of being irrelevant, fear of our neighbor or global warming or even bedbugs. When fear is coupled with misunderstood language and with being disconnected to society in general, there is always going to be a victim.
We forget how powerful words are. Words can change someone’s life. Don’t believe this? Just ask any teenager who has been bullied in school or on the internet and begins to feel like a social misfit. Just ask anybody on a diet who has been complimented for their weight loss. There is more wattage in their smile than all the lights on Broadway.
My experience as a counselor has taught me that when individuals feel they are not listened to, or they are invisible to others or powerless to change events in their life, they usually face a future full of anger, hostility and depression, if there is no attempt to seek help for self-understanding. And that’s when they begin to make a lot of very bad decisions that will affect the future course of their life and the lives of anyone who gets involved with them. What took a lifetime to put in place, takes a lifetime to undo. Sadly, sometimes that never happens.
But for a guy who insists that people say what they mean and mean what they say, Jared Loughner will be in for a real education in language when the lawyers begin to circle him like buzzards over a carcass. In the meantime, feel free to pray for all the victims in the Arizona tragedy, using any words you like.
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