This week President Obama helped the nation mourn in Tucson. Today let's celebrate American democracy and the freedoms we enjoy and not let a nut with a gun in any way interfere with a full-throated, passionate dialogue that is as American as apple pie. For in order for democracy to thrive it's imperative that we resist the impulse to tell opinionated people who are exercising political speech that its their fault for inciting deranged people from acting out their darkest fantasies.
On the contrary, I’m proud to live in a nation where Tea Partiers can gather and argue passionately with their Congressman and ladies from Code Pink can argue with Karl Rove at a book signing or protest outside President Bush’s ranch.
I don’t blame Keith Olbermann, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or anybody else for what happened in Arizona despite the rhetoric each has used against their political opponents. In fact, I think we have more to fear, and a far greater danger that violence will result exists, if we become a nation in which free speech is suppressed out of a fear that it might incite the occasional nutcase.
The whole point of and reason for political debate in our culture is that words take the place of weapons-and we use words, and yes sometimes angry ones, against one another precisely so that we won’t use weapons. Demanding that any and all analogies that are related to war or death are not to be used for fear that it might set off a random nut to act on any terms that connote violence is not the answer to these problems. If we're serious about this it must necessarily follow that we must eliminate using terms like "beating" "crushing" "destroying" or "demolishing" opponents, whether it be a sporting event or a political campaign.
No, Sarah Palin is not to blame because her PAC put Congresswoman Giffords’s district in crosshairs on a map, nor is President Obama to blame because he once said during the heated 2008 campaign: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun. Nor were J.D. Salinger or Jodie Foster responsible for the killing of John Lennon or the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Rather, we're all responsible for our individual actions and the price of living in a free society is that we will occasionally experience these types of unfortunate incidents.
The American experiment has succeeded precisely because there are almost no limits on political speech and the rush to move blame away from deranged individuals and on to the “coarsening political dialogue” is just an indication that people don’t understand evil and/or mental illness, one or both of which is to blame for the mayhem in Arizona, not to mention American history which is replete with rude, obnoxious, boisterous political speech.
Let the loud, boisterous and sometimes angry debates continue, for it’s the way we Americans have always dealt with the issues of our day and the day we stop or are forced to stop, is the day we're in danger of seeing voices replaced by gunfire.
Mark Joseph is a television, movie and music producer and author of "The Lion, The Professor & The Movies: 'Narnia's' Journey To The Big Screen."