Smile Politely

David Gill’s use of violent metaphor about opponent is unacceptable

Many central Illinois residents, including myself, are very excited about the newly drawn 13th United States Congressional District because its politically diverse characteristics make us a swing district. For the first time in a very long time, we have an actual choice in deciding who will represent our community in Congress. I was excited to meet and hear Democrat David Gill speak at a recent event about his upcoming campaign because I felt that his non-career-politician image would make him very competitive in the upcoming election. Unfortunately, what I heard at this event made me rethink my support for his candidacy.

Near the end of his speech Gill made a “joke” in the form of a trivia question for a free campaign t-shirt. The question was: in To Kill a Mockingbird, what is the name of the rabid dog that Atticus Finch shoots between the eyes? The answer: Old Tim Johnson. This was followed by a few laughs and Gill stated, “That’s what we need to do with the real Tim Johnson, metaphorically.” 

I was very disappointed by this statement and felt that it was in terrible taste to be making it less than nine months after Gabrielle Giffords, a sitting US Congresswoman, was shot in the head. I understand that it was intended to be a joke and was stated metaphorically, but metaphors and rhetoric incorporating violence have no place in public discourse. Following the attack on Giffords, Sarah Palin was heavily criticized for her continued use of the phrase, “Don’t retreat, instead — RELOAD,” which was originally used when instructing supporters of her political action committee to defeat Democratic Representatives in the 2010 elections. She was also denounced for her use of crosshairs to show these Congressional Districts on the map.

I feel that Gill’s statement should be held to the same standard as Palin’s, and as a society we should reject this type of rhetoric even, and especially, if the offender is within our own party. Not as Conservatives or Liberals, but as Americans we need to reject this type of extreme and hateful rhetoric. The political arena of our nation has become increasingly hostile, and political movements have grown more volatile. We must stop hating one another and come to the realization that we all want the best for our nation, but simply disagree on the solution. We need to stop viewing the opposing party as our enemies and start viewing them as people we must work with and respect — after all, they are not going away.

Gill’s statement was unprofessional, offensive, inappropriate and disrespectful. Although I disagree with Representative Johnson on many issues, he has dedicated his life to improving our community. I may be a liberal, but I can respect that the man wants what’s best for our society — I just feel he uses the wrong approach. We must take a more civil approach in our political discourse because we can accomplish our goals without hatred and contempt. Whether those goals include reaching an agreement on an issue or defeating the opposition in an election, we can accomplish both with mutual respect and civility.

Following the shooting of Representative Giffords, President Obama gave a speech on civil discourse in which he stated that we as a nation must “sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.” We must bring civility back to our conversations because we are all neighbors, we must all live together, and we all want the best for our communities.

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