Cat Urbigkit: Gun Violence And Silencing the Language of Hate

in Cat Urbigkit/Column

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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

Last week’s massacre of elementary students at a school in Texas, coming so soon after another deadly rampage in a grocery store in New York, generated many sincere but inadequate expressions of “thoughts and prayers” and once again predictable declarations for and against gun control. There were plenty of people making statements, but few were actually communicating.

It seems that earnest deliberations directed toward reducing gun violence and mass shootings are a rarity. Those who dare to discuss whether universal background checks or instituting age limits on certain firearms may reduce gun violence are promptly labeled “gun-control advocates.”

For some, any regulation addressing gun safety is seen as an attack on the Second Amendment. But how is regulation of gun safety any different than the voter ID requirements pushed by many of the same constitutional rights advocates? Using the same standard, aren’t voter ID laws an attack on voting rights? Doesn’t that mean those who advocated for such laws are “voter-control advocates?”

Just as predictably as Republicans pointed to mental health issues and the presence of evil in society as the cause for gun violence, Democrats pointed to gun ownership in America as the root cause. Both sides are busy issuing statements, attempting to score political points while blaming the other party.

Conservatives blame godless liberal policies for violence, while liberals blame the Republican religious-like worship at the altar of the gun, or claim they are captive to the gun lobby. Anyone within either camp who notes that the opposing party just might have a point is condemned.

That’s where we are at as a nation, stuck in a quagmire of virtue signaling instead of working to save lives. There are a few points both sides should agree on: anyone who would shoot and kill a group of innocent people is deranged; and we need to reduce the risk of such attacks in the future.

Since I don’t envision many of our political leaders crossing the aisle for in-depth policy discussions on this issue (especially in an election year when all the action is focused on playing to the base), I suggest that the first step we all can take is to silence the language of hate.

None of us should be engaging in language that promotes hate or hatred of anyone. We must reject political candidates who engage by claiming their opponents “hate you.”

Reject their narratives that call their opponents communists or fascists and other such deceitful pettiness aimed at dehumanizing their opponents. Reject their efforts to invoke fear and distrust. Reject the stoking of hatred and violence that they claim are merely jokes or hyperbole. Reject their claims that every elected official they disagree with is corrupt.

If their campaign is centered on “fighting the enemy” don’t expect them to come to the table to talk solutions. Their rhetoric indicates a desire to continue to fan the flames and make headlines, not seek out solutions. Our political opponents are not our enemies.

As President Abraham Lincoln stated in his first inaugural address: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”

Lincoln concluded his address with this: “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

It’s time to call up those better angels, and the words we use in doing so matter.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily.

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