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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

It's Time to "Listen As We Speak"

Today a gunman, perhaps more than one opened fire on a gathering sponsored by Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona. Rep. Giffords was severely wounded, 18 others were shot, 6 are dead (at this writing) including a federal judge and a 9 year old child.

The gunman who has been apprehended, Jared Loughner, seems to have been a deeply disturbed man, but who seems to have been at least influenced by all the political rhetoric that has been irresponsibly thrown around since the election of Pres. Barrack Obama. Among other things he has posted on his social network page, "I can't trust the current government." He also has expressed hatred towards immigrants and those who "do not speak English."

No one supports our First Amendment rights more than I do, but we need to recognize that words have consequences. And when I see political rallies where people carry signs threatening a "2nd Amendment Solution" to problems they see in our goverment or carry guns to political rallies, I realize that it is pratically only a matter of time when someone who lacks judgement and restraint acts on those threats.

Such seems to be the case today.

We need to recognize the fact that all citizens, regardless of their political views, are fellow human beings worthy of the same respect that each of us would want for ourselves, in possession of the same right to dignity that each of us has.

It's time to tone it down. We do not know who may be listening, and even though we have a right to our opinion, how we express that opinion matters. We have a responsibility to honor one anothers basic humanity, even though we may disagree on our respective visions of justice.

Whether we are socialist, social democrat, liberal, progressive, conservative, libertarian, left or right, we are all American, all citizens, all humans.

My good friend,Laura Boyd posted on her blog some principles I think would be good for all us to follow:

#1- Vow to speak to and about each other with respectful language and images. We are ALL God’s children regardless of color, politics, geography, faith, gender, or sexual orientation. Each life is precious.

#2- Listen as well as speak.

#3- Know that ultimately we are all dependent on something else for our joy, purpose, and well-being.

#4- Look out for one another: we do not need to confront those with differing opinions who cannot hear us; we should not turn a deaf ear to those who would threaten us; we must be watchful and respectful of one another, both allowing for our differences and taking action to protect others when we have reason to be concerned about the judgment and actions of those who would not allow for peaceful existence and differences.

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