Forgive me as I state the obvious, but....
Words matter. They do.
When anyone dies, for me it is heart-breaking. Dependent upon how they lose their life it can be tragic. As we mourn the loss of four American lives in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, this made me think about the importance of words. They are dead in part by the weapons that took their lives, but they are also dead because of words.
I was watching the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC last night and as usual the programming was stellar. She was speaking in detail about the importance of the difference in how the people of the Middle East live and think in contrast to America. Illustrating how freedom of speech is a foreign concept to many of them. I too had that knee jerk reaction when the news stories began to unravel following the raids. Just this morning I awoke to the news that 11 countries in the Middle East are now protesting at our Embassy's - why?
Because of words.
As Rachel so adeptly pointed out, these people have never known the freedom of speech and religion that we have. The thought that someone could create an anti Muslim movie like the one that sparked this chaos, without government approval.....it's unheard of. Conversely we could not conceive of living in a nation that would control our speech. To that end, we often border on abusing that right, but it is one that I would dare say 100% of the electorate embraces.
So this movie and all the hate it espouses, to their eyes and ears they think America condones it. They have their leaders of varying levels and parties feeding them drivel that Americans are Devils for their act of hate speech toward the Muslim people. Like a Bizarro world of the kids game telephone, one person starts off saying one thing and by the time it makes it to the 50th person the story has been distorted and twisted to the degree that it sparked outrage. Can we blame them?
If we were to stop 10 people on the streets of America and ask them what they know to be true about the Middle East, how many would be able to answer that question. For most of our society, we don't think beyond our borders. How many times have people on this very website blogged anger and rage when people like myself write of the importance that we have a president that is loved and respected worldwide. To hear these people speak, all that matters is that he be a "real American", produce jobs and not touch their Medicare. They completely miss the point that we are not an island. The eyes of the world are on us and for good reason. Because we are stationed all over the world in one way or another. Our economy is affected by other nations. We have trade agreements with other governments.
When our leaders speak, their words have meaning and impact.
Romney learned the hard way this week that words matter. He allowed his foot to be inserted not just in his mouth, but crammed half way down his throat. The severity and insensitive nature of his words.....at the time they were spoken....will now be in our collective memories. Decades from now when people gather to discuss the all time biggest political blunders, Mitt Romney's name will be mentioned, and his gaff over the Libyan massacre will be brought up.
Who among us that love debating politics and life on NewsVine and other sites, have not said words we wish we could take back. I know I have. I have posted opinions about this or that and read them later only to wonder to myself "why?" Why would I say something like that and from what part of my heart and soul would such opinions come? I have posted comments that don't come close to reflecting who I am as a person. However much like the old saying "Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it's hard to get it back in..." This is true for words we say. You can clarify and try to explain them, but once they are out....they are out.
President Obama now has to use his words to soothe countries in the Middle East and demonstrate a level of diplomacy that few among us would be able to pull off. We disagree and gripe, snipe and bicker endlessly about issues we state are of the utmost importance. We choose sides and plant our feet and defend our colors (so to speak).
However it is times like this where mere words, and the misunderstanding of them, are costing lives.......it is now that all the disagreements we have seem petty and insignificant. It is now that everyone should learn the lesson, words matter and carry weight. Because of an insensitive religious bigot's words, the rest of us will have to pay. Some with our lives and the rest with the realization we have people burning our flag in effigy, cursing our name and not one of them understands they hate us for words none of us would ever think of saying.
We are not the man that wrote and produced this controversial movie. Those were not our words.