SPCA's Madeline Bernstein: A Word About Assassinations

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As one of the national figures in the Animal Welfare arena I feel that something must be said and some leadership shown in the wake of the Arizona massacre. Many of us feel passionate about our mission and believe that our cause is a righteous one. All of us work with factions with whom we disagree and of whose tactics we disapprove.

Those of us who study history and the arcs of civil movements and revolutions would concede that there have been successful uses of civil disobedience and strong rhetoric. Without the committed, the articulate and the brave who fought before us, who knows if we would be respecting the civil rights of others and if we would be living in a slave free country where abortion, gay marriage, animal protection, freedom of religion, and first amendment rights could be discussed, protested, tweeted, and above all, taken for granted.

It is ironic that recent protests for or against gay marriage, the circus or the war in Iraq have been conducted rather peacefully, while it is our elected officials, the keepers of our constitution, and political wannabees that have jacked up the violent rhetoric to feverish and toxic levels that are sure to kill. Since crazy shrill people are good for ratings there is no incentive to tone it down.

Though a huge fan of the first amendment and not one who believes that an act by a criminal should chill communication for the rest of us, i do believe that leaders have a responsibility to watch the words. President Clinton said - "both the serious and the delirious hear them". As leaders we have to take responsibility for our actions.

Some have called for unity and corrective steps following the Arizona shootings, while Palin has spent all weekend abdicating all responsibility for her web site.  Why not just be willing to examine whether gun cross hair imagery is an idea worth repeating. As leaders we have to persuade, cajole and argue rationally for our points rather than demonize the opposition. As leaders we must model ethical behavior rather than slink under the mantle of anything goes because the ends justify the means. Unless we are hiding something, we should want our audiences to hear the signal rather than the static.

There may not be a cure for crazy, but it there is a cure against illiterate, ignorant, people, politicians and  entertainers who think snarky and bullying equal clever and strong. The cure is to take away their air and votes and simply ignore them by each and every means.

That way, the rest of us who believe in fighting for a cause will be able to continue as civilized members of society. I worry that this bad behavior does not augur well for the rest of us who play by the rules and the members of the vulnerable classes who rely on us. We can't let the delirious on either end win.


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