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EDITORIAL: Aggressive language won't help

EDITORIAL: Aggressive language won't help

To solve nation's issues, we need calm discussion and reasoned debate, not name-calling and threats
EDITORIAL: Aggressive language won't help
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 24, 2013.
Photographer: DREW ANGERER/THE NEW YORK TIMES

It’s so tempting to join the fray.

We’re all angry at something these days, it seems.

Our nerves are shot. We’re starkly divided politically. And now we’ve got this coronavirus thing hanging over our heads.

But in times like this, it’s important that we don’t contribute to the vitriol and divisiveness by lashing out with threats and intimidation.

Last week, Rep. Elise Stefanik came out of a grocery store with her husband before a day of campaigning to find a hand-written note on her car that said, “Rot in Hell FASCIST PIG.”

Also earlier this month, our normally mild-mannered U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer took out his frustrations with the conservative-leaning Supreme Court over abortion rights by saying, “I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price! You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

Both messages — the note and the comment — reflect an inappropriate response to a political position that will do nothing but further isolate and divide this country.

Did the note writer directly advocate violence against the congresswoman? No.

But the note certainly was meant to send a threatening message. By placing that note on the congresswoman’s car, the writer intended to intimate her. He invaded her personal space and he wanted her to know it.

Did Sen. Schumer really mean to imply the justices would face physical violence? Of course not. He fights with a pen, not a sword.

But knowing he was speaking in the context of a subject that inflames passions on both sides of a very personal issue, his language did nothing to advance his position or to sway the judges to his point of view.

At the very least, such aggressive, overly bellicose verbiage has the effect of furthering our political and cultural divide.

At worst, intended or not, it has the effect of potentially inspiring aggressiveness and violence in others.

The way to solve our nation’s problems is through debate, discussion and peaceful protest.

It’s by informing ourselves about the issues through legitimate, trustworthy sources and using that knowledge to defend our views and to challenge the positions of our politicians and other citizens.

It’s by listening to others’ points of view, even those with whom we disagree, so that we know where each other stands and where we can find shared opportunities for agreement and compromise.

Calling people inflammatory words like “fascist” or telling judges they’ll “pay the price” gets us nowhere but further apart.

As the political season matures and we get closer to Election Day, we all need to remember that — in the way we respond to our politicians and to one another.

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