Words Do Breed Violence


            Marble Falls      We’ve all heard the expression and many of us have dutifully passed it on to our children and others that “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.”  It’s a rhyme that works with children, because they are too young to know better.  The rest of us know that it’s a bald-faced lie.  Words do hurt, and words untethered from common sense and decency can be fatal, fomenting irrational hate and violence.

Surprisingly, during this runup to the midterms, January 6th is not a central issue in many of these elections, even for its enablers who include elected representatives in Congress now standing before the voters.  The special January 6th committee has done a public service by presenting the evidence in excruciating and unassailable detail of the consequences that flow from words divorced from reality and accountability.  Some of these individuals who were swept up in these fake calls to arms and violence are now finding themselves in court and facing judges who are meting out longer and longer sentences for their actions.  Ex-President Trump and his many political sycophants have largely escaped paying for their role in this insurrection in classic examples of “hiding the hand that threw the rock.”  Congressman Steve Scalise is as good as any poster child for this impunity for his false claim that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t call for assistance from the national guard, even as video clearly shows him standing next to her as she did so.

How could we possibly believe Scalise or any others of his ilk as they now try to condemn the break-in at her home in San Francisco by an assailant yelling, “Where’s Nancy,” as he broke her husband’s skull with a hammer?  The vituperation that has been directed at Pelosi by Republicans and the rightwing has been continual and boundless.  When you call for violence and hate on constant rewind, eventually your call will be answered.   You will reap what you have sown.  The piper will be paid.  What goes around will come around.  The reason all of these expressions have endured is that they represent basic truths, and they beget sticks and stones and worse.

Reading of the assault in the Pacific Heights, I was also reading about an assassination of a mayor in Brazil who was campaigning for Lula de Silva’s candidacy in the upcoming election there.  Anyone following elections over the years in Nigeria, Kenya, Honduras, Iran, India, and other countries regularly is forced to reckon with the blood price that many pay for their political activity.  In the United States, we have long enjoyed a default reaction, believing that these events are horrific, but at least “it can’t happen here.”

We now live in a new reality stripped of pretense.  It can happen here.  It is happening here.  It has happened here, as Rap Brown famously said, “violence is as American as apple pie.” It will continue to happen, and worsen, if not made to stop and held to account.