I was lying in bed, a dog on either side — yes, Koko has a new friend, though she’s not yet entirely convinced Po`ele is one — thinking of how effective they were in warding off the chill, when I looked up at the skylight and saw a light bright as Venus pass overhead, moving much faster than a plane, but not nearly so fast as a meteor.
My curiosity aroused, I bundled up and we all went walking beneath a canopy of stars where nothing moved, save for a satellite and the planes — red lights blinking — approaching the airport in a part of the sky that was slowly beginning to brighten.
Back home, still bundled up because the temperature inside remains a brisk 59 degrees, I perused the Internet and noticed a headline about a “Tucson rampage,” which is the type of article I don’t usually read, until I saw that Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was among those wounded in a shooting that also left a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, along with four others, dead:
Greg Segalini, an uncle of the girl, told the Arizona Republic that a neighbor was going to the event and invited her along because she had just been elected to the student council and was interested in government.
What a tragic introduction to what is becoming the increasingly sordid world of politics, although it’s just one arena where, as I wrote in a post about Kahu Kaleo Patterson’s peace work, we can so clearly see “the subtle, and not so subtle, ways that violence has ingratiated itself into our culture through language.”
The connection between language and action, including the heavy use of gun imagery during the campaign by her re-election opponent, Jesse Kelly, wasn't lost on law enforcement investigating the mass shooting:
But in Pima County, Ariz., Sheriff Clarence Dupnik suggested "all this vitriol" in recent political discourse might be connected to Saturday's shootings. "This may be free speech," he told reporters, "but it's not without consequences."
Nor was it lost on political commentators, at least one of whom was quick to dismiss any link between Sarah Palin and her Facebook page map that depicted crosshair targets on the districts of Democrats she wanted to see defeated, including Giffords', and who Tweeted: “"Don't retreat, RELOAD!" As The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz wrote, perhaps to ease his own guilt over routinely using violent language:
Let's be honest: Journalists often use military terminology in describing campaigns. We talk about the air war, the bombshells, targeting politicians, knocking them off, candidates returning fire or being out of ammunition. So we shouldn't act shocked when politicians do the same thing. Obviously, Palin should have used dots or asterisks on her map. But does anyone seriously believe she was trying to incite violence?
That’s just the point. Our use of violent language has become so routine that we express surprise when someone who is obviously mentally ill takes it to heart and acts upon the underlying message.
While we’re talking about language and the mentally ill, I want to take The Garden Island to task for its really unfortunate and insensitive repeated use of the phrase “Crazy Carrie,” in both its headline and article on the arrest of a Kilauea woman for attempted murder. Yeah, it makes for some sensational copy, but it also perpetuates old stigmas and stereotypes. And if writer Leo Azumbuja didn’t understand that, his editor certainly should have.
And while we’re talking about Leo, his article today on the County Council rules subcommittee resolution that I wrote about last week contained an error that unfairly cast Councilman Mel Rapozo in a bad light:
Rapozo, however, ended [sic] breaking one of the rules by speaking for seven minutes, right after criticizing council members for breaking the same rule. The rules allow council members to speak for five minutes on a given subject.
As Mel noted in the comment section:
If you were paying attention, you would have known that the rules allow council members to speak for 10 minutes on any given subject, not five as you reported. This is another example of how your paper misinforms the public at the expense of others. Don't even bother putting in a correction. I think the people have come to learn that the stories in the Garden Island must be validated by independent sources.
It does seem that Leo, who unquestioningly reports whatever Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura and Tim Bynum tell him, which led to a series of attack articles on County Clerk Peter Nakamura, has something against Mel. You may recall Leo described Mel as a “noisemaker” in an embarrassingly bad article on the new Council, where he fawned over JoAnn and offered some bizarre, yet flattering, observations on the other members.
JoAnn, as I feared, appears poised to use the rules subcommittee as an opportunity to continue her vendetta against Peter, who apparently didn’t step and fetch high and fast enough to suit her when she was mayor and pulling such stunts as sending him faxes on his honeymoon and calling him away from the hospital bed of his dying father.
She used the discussion about the subcommittee resolution to claim once again that the Council apparently hadn’t followed its rules in giving Peter a pay raise by saying it hadn’t been granted by a physical majority of the Council. She and Tim like to conveniently forget that the entire Council unanimously received the Salary Commission resolution establishing the raise after County Attorney Al Castillo made it crystal clear that such a vote meant the raises would go through.
And since this post is about language and its consequences, I’d like to point out that the big problem I have with JoAnn is not that she raised the issue of how Peter got his raise but that she did it through a deliberate smear that she knew was entirely unsubstantiated:
Second, there are issues which due diligence requires be cleared up before I can vote for Mr. Nakamura. The most serious is a 2009 pay raise that Mr. Nakamura accepted which he knew, or should have known, was not legal.
Which leads me to Tim’s recent claim that he didn’t want the pay raise that the Council also gave itself in receiving the resolution establishing the raise for Peter and others. In fact, Tim even claimed that he tried to give it back, but the Charter forbade it.
If that’s the truth, then why didn’t he also object to the Council pay raise in the April 1, 2010 letter (scroll down toward the end of the PDF) he submitted to the Salary Commission? Instead, Tim asked only that the panel revise the salaries of the Clerk, County Auditor and County Prosecutor. There was nary a peep about revoking the pay raises for himself and the other Councilmembers. How curious, for someone who supposedly didn't want his own raise.
As we all know, words have consequences. Especially when they’re false and/or incite others to commit violent acts.