Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Arizona's Sheriff Dupnik and the 'vitriol' debate: Do words matter that much?

Yes, they do. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is being criticized for his comments linking Saturday's shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others to antigovernment vitriol. But he's right: The words we use carry great power to shape how we respond to others.
By Deborah Tannen
Christian Science Monitor

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was eloquent in linking Saturday’s devastating shooting to “the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government.” Some will applaud his articulating an obvious pathology of our times. Others will attribute the shooting to an individual’s unbalanced mind, and dismiss the notion that language – “just words” – could motivate such action. Years ago I experienced directly the power of talk to shape how people respond to others – with animosity and belligerence, or with compassion and a sense of connection.

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