Select words more carefully

Published 9:18 am Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Americans have been searching for answers in the wake of violence that erupted this month in Tucson, Ariz.

A grandmother, mother, husband, congressional staff member, federal judge and 9-year-old girl lost their lives that day. The lives of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others hang in the balance. The lives of those left behind to deal with the fallout are forever changed.

When tragedies unfold, we instinctively look for a place where we can lay blame. The suspected shooter and his allegedly compromised state of mind is a simple and logical target. Looking deeper, pundits have pointed to a toxic political environment and questionable comments made by public figures as fanners of the flame.

We fervently support the First Amendment and the right of individuals to comment on the actions of their government. We also believe it is the personal responsibility of those individuals engaging in political discourse to treat others with decency and respect.

The right to engage in political debate is granted by the Constitution. The decision to respect others’ rights who hold differing opinions is governed by human decency.

Whether politically incendiary comments led to the Tucson shooter’s actions, we may never know. One thing, though, is certain: The national dialog today is as angry and inflammatory as ever. Let us all choose to take a deep breath and select our words more carefully.