Words and Responsibility – What Have We Become As A People?

Ugly words and inciting to violence matter. This poster is proof.

Years ago, I used to rant more. I used to rant a lot. A lot. Loudly. Frequently. Then I began to question my position and my posture.

So I began to rant less. I still believe in things, but I rant less. Words – they come with a form of responsibility. If I were going to carry on about conservatives. Republicans and so forth, often calling them names, I realized that I was irresponsible. Very.

People have called me duplicitous, cowardly and more. So be it. Hearing descriptive labels spat out like poison is foul no matter which side is being called out.

Now I am aware that while my friends on the left mock conservatives often, the use of the term liberal as an insult is common practice in many circles. Even – perhaps even more so, in Catholic circles. I hear it all the time where I work.

Then I saw this today. Anyone who utters the word “liberal” as if it were just the most ugly epithet bears some responsibility for what happened here.What have we become as a people?

For one and all, I’m talking to you fellow Catholics, who want to lecture the world about the dignity of all human life. If we continue to follow this narrow path, there is no dignity.




12 thoughts on “Words and Responsibility – What Have We Become As A People?

  1. Poor kitty. 😦 Find and arrest and convict and imprison the [remember this site I’m on] person who did this heinous act.

    I’ve never seen that poster before.

    I wish I could say I was surprised by it.


  2. I get angry about a lot of conservative politics–but I have NEVER wished physical harm or death on anyone.

    Eliminationist rhetoric from the right, however, is par for the course on almost every public site I read. Most days, I cannot bring myself to read the comments on news stories. The level of hatred and vitriol shows me exactly how something like the killing of a child’s pet could happen. It is a short walk from “Those people (i.e., liberals) are traitors” (a la Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, etc.) to “Death to traitors!” (and apparently their pets).

    We’ve heard all of this before. “Armenians are in league with the enemy.” “Jews are predators who should be exterminated for the good of the German people.” “Without the Tutsi, all of Rwanda’s problems would be over.”

    We all know how those situations ended.

    I believe the church has an obligation to state, in no uncertain terms, that such language–and the behaviors that flow from it– are negations of the Gospel. And that goes for whoever is using that language. Most of the violent rhetoric I hear comes from the right, but I won’t exempt myself or people on the liberal end of the spectrum from censure for using eliminationist or “othering” language. It is wrong for everyone–and it is particularly distressing when done by people who claim to be Christian.


  3. Thank you, Fran. This past Sunday the celebrant (who was not one of our resident priests) spent the entire sermon nearly ranting about the moral limits of government, while never once mentioning the moral RESPONSIBILITIES of government. This to me is exactly the sort of thing you’re talking about, although dressed up in nice green vestments: one-sided and vitriolic, and at least in this case lacking any suggestions for practical and godly ways to proceed. I too cringe when I see and hear the meanness that has come into our discourse as we become increasingly divided by labels that obscure the complex reality of the people to whom they’re applied. I try to call people out on that, respectfully, and have been fortunate enough to have most of them respond in a respectful and thoughtful way. Just did that on Facebook earlier today, when a friend posted a graphic encouraging people to share the “I pledge to vote against Obama” sentiment. I commented, “Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to pledge to vote FOR someone? I’m just sayin…”.

    The person who mutilated the family cat is a criminal sociopath and needs to be confined where he/she can no longer hurt others. What an absolute horror.


  4. Me again. I was just rummaging through my files and ran into this, from theprogressivecatholicvoice.blogspot.com post on the Incarnation. Seems pretty directly relevant to me:

    “May we awaken into a broader and deeper awareness of God present, especially in those on whom we project our own partial truths and worst fears. May we remember the Divine is greater than our comfortable categories and dogmas, is greater, dare we admit it, than ourselves. And in that light, may we remember that our enemies are not God’s enemies, and welcome the grace to stop inflaming the conflicts we decry and disowning the victims we create.”



  5. I did not access the link to the abuse of the cat. I cannot even bear to think about it. But, like you, I am appalled at what we have become as a country or as Christians. As a previous comment mentions, although I may vigorously disagree with some viewpoints, I have never wished harm on anyone. To take out one’s anger on a poor defenseless person or animal is unthinkable. Some of the worst antigay and racist language I hear comes from Catholics who go to daily Mass. What’s wrong with that picture? All of us have a lot of work to do as our mission in the world.


  6. Pingback: UPDATED: Words Have Power – A Lot of Power | There Will Be Bread

  7. Once upon a time, even a few years ago, the USA was the champion, and even the supposed exemplar of LIBERAL democracy. – even by the best informed conservatives.
    What happened?


    • John, thanks for your comment. I agree that there is a toxic right-wing noise machine, but I also feel compelled to add that there is another wing, also toxic and from the left. In fact, there are multiple wings, because bloviating (and I have done my fair share of that!) is the norm and so much anger is spread. In any event, there are elements to every side and it does seem that the use of the word “liberal” is so prevalent, more so than others.

      It is hard for me to keep lining up on sides, so I am not chiding you or rejecting your message.

      Thanks for coming to the blog and I hope that you come by again. Peace and good to you.


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