Voters, politicians and religious leaders should all recognize and respond when political rhetoric goes too far.
BY BONNY RODDEN SPECIAL TO THE PRESS HERALD
FALMOUTH — It’s not enough for elected officials to send heartfelt condolences.
It’s not enough for clergy to preach against violence.
It’s not even enough for churchgoers to send sincere thoughts and prayers.
It is time to confront the hatred and bigotry boiling underneath the violence. It is time to make our elected officials accountable.
As three esteemed Episcopal bishops wrote in an open letter sent to President Trump last week – but directed more at us – it is time to end the complicity. It is time to end the silence.
It would not be enough even if our legislative leaders had the courage to make it illegal for civilians to buy assault weapons or to restrict gun ownership of those most likely to harm others or themselves. It would be a start, but it would not be enough.
We need to use our influence, our power and our voices to curb gun violence, and we need our elected officials to do the same. Neither we as Americans nor they whom we have elected should remain silent while mass murders devastate families and communities – murders that make us question whether Americans still believe in the values that once defined us.
Where are the elected officials when their brethren, state and federal, spew hatred and divisiveness on Twitter and other social media?
Why don’t elected officials stop hiding behind the First and Second amendments and instead call out their fellow members of Congress, their president and members of Maine’s Legislature who fan the flames of white supremacy, bigotry and hatred?
Why don’t they censure their colleagues for violating the principles of our democracy?
Why don’t political parties renounce their own hatemongers by using the party’s influence on voters?
When the people we elected spread lies on social media and encourage others to do the same, why don’t leaders of political parties say enough is enough and refuse to help them with their campaigns?
Why don’t political leaders forgo their time-honored tradition of remaining neutral in primaries and instead steer campaign resources to candidates who oppose those who foment discord and racial bigotry?
Why do some religious leaders who preach love and peace to audiences on television and in megachurches hypocritically use their power on behalf of elected officials who clearly eschew the moral values so dear to Christians and those of other faiths?
If laws were implemented to ban assault weapons and to give police more authority to keep guns from people most likely to kill, gun-related deaths undoubtedly would be reduced even though never eliminated.
However, elected officials can do something even if they are afraid they won’t be re-elected. They can stop being silent when political rhetoric goes too far.
They can fervently defend our constitutional right to free speech and simultaneously condemn their peers who spew venom. They can protect the rights of law-abiding citizens under the Second Amendment and still protect us from murderers who kill out of hate.
Clergy can promote voter registration from the pulpit. And even those who are people of faith and send prayers to grieving families, even they can do more.
They can go to the polls on Election Day and use their power to vote against hate.