BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Consequences of Hate Speech

Posted by egehl on April 26, 2010

I am appalled.  And it’s not because of his politics, policies or what he stands for.  And it’s not because I wasn’t a fan of the prior guy.  But it’s because he’s a human being, a husband and a father of two little girls.  And to wish anyone dead in a public forum is despicable. 

As a country, we have the right and freedom to feel anger, frustration and even hatred toward our politicians.  Who holds political office will ebb and flow therefore it’s understandable and even natural that no one will always be satisfied with their leaders.  However to wish someone dead because you disagree with them is counterproductive and just plain sad.

Whether you like it or not, the majority of our country votes to elect a President into office and he’s our commander in chief.  No matter how much you may dislike a politician’s decisions and politics your energies should be put toward electing someone else who reflects your positions.  That is the decent, humane way to react. 

However that doesn’t seem be the case with what’s spreading on Facebook.  There is a new group that says, “DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN.” Over 1 million people have stated that they “like” this page.  Wow.  I am all for free speech, but what I am against is hate speech. 

Sadly hate groups and actions are spreading in this country rapidly.  From the recent wave of vandalism and threats aimed at Members of Congress who voted for health care reform legislation to the growing number of antigovernment organizations similar to the atmosphere that preceded the attack in Oklahoma City, you can feel the increased hatred spreading through this country with increased rhetoric and perpetuated conspiracy theories. 

April 19th marked the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing and in many ways our current time is reflective of that period.   President Clinton recounted that time by saying, “[W]hat we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or that we should reduce our passion for the positions we hold, but that the words we use really do matter because … there’s this vast echo chamber.   And they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious, alike; they fall on the connected and the unhinged, alike.” 

Tensions are high right now as our country battles through many challenges.  So it’s understandable that people feel passionate about what they think this country needs and how to achieve it.  However hate language, action and intention will not solve anything, only exasperate the problem and divide this country further.  The amount of rhetoric being heard these days can be scary and it only stokes the fire which leads to fanatical Facebook pages and pitting one side against the other. 

I won’t preach “can’t we all just get along” because I realize feelings are strong and our country is polarized.  And to be fair both sides can spew hatred toward the other, it isn’t just reserved for the right which has the stage right now.  However all of this must calm down otherwise we could be faced with an even larger statement than what’s being spread on the Internet like the Oklahoma City bombing. 

Therefore preaching tolerance is important no matter who’s in office and directing one’s passions toward something more constructive like voting and campaigning should be encouraged rather than using hate speech as a means to an end.

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