Walter Rhett

To Tell the Truth

In Living, Media, Perlo on January 15, 2011 at 2:27 pm

MissionaryRidge, TN

I grew up in the last era of political violence, in the region that was its epicenter. That violence was accompanied by rhetoric that prompted a range of responses, from fear and hatred, to violence and inhuman brutality. There were impassioned dismissals and denials of the issues and actions taken against those who led non-violent protests. There were invectives hurled at those who marched and sung in peace to bring social and economic change and to reform America for many whose citizenship was decidedly second class. These words were mingled with the Lester Maddox’s ax handles, Bull Connors’ fire hoses and police dogs, and citizen house burnings and bombs, one of which blow up a church on Sunday morning that killed four little girls around the age of Tucson’s youngest victim, Christina Green.

I am more frightened by the poll questions you cite that show the majority of Americans now believe that every point of view has a political purpose. That every objection spoken intends to advance a political agenda. That every attempt to show cause is an attempt to shift blame and is met with scorn. How can there be honest debate, if no view is thought sincere, and all words are labeled as duplicitous?

Whatever your view about the relationship, direct or indirect, of words to the violence in Tucson, the words that discuss the events are chilling. The lingering innuendo that the tee shirts at the memorial were tied to the Democratic Party, the twitter posts I read that urged folk to label the gun man as being on the “liberal left,” the suggestion that the memorial was “inappropriate” because it celebrated life with applause—all these words are actions that do violence because they question our sincerity and seek to diminish our humaneness and honesty; they cynically limit our motives and assign dubious purposes and demeaning calculations to every single expression we share. Right or wrong, we are moving to make every utterance a perfidy–an act of treachery that violates our trust and deliberately breaches our faith.

The conflict between different views loudly masks a deeper fissure, the fact that fewer and fewer of us have faith in the words to be true.
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Walter Rhett, Writer. Walter Rhett, Writer said: To Tell the Truth: […]

  2. >> How can there be honest debate,
    >> if no view is thought sincere,
    >> and all words are labeled as duplicitous?

    . . .

    Didn’t Jared Lee Loughner ask
    “How can there be government if words have no meaning?”

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