A few weeks ago I wrote a blog on thinking before you speak or Facebook or Tweet. It wasn't one of my more popular blogs. Though it should have been, especially in light of the barrage of careless and misinformed comments that have flooded the media commentary since.
One person I am fairly certain never laid his eyes on that blog is the now-infamous Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri. Maybe if he had, he would have hit pause for a moment. Maybe not. Maybe he really is that ignorant and offensive. But the fact remains when you don't think before you speak, when you utter ill-informed comments with no substantive backing, the odds are that sooner than later they will come back to you, like a boomerang right between the eyes. Especially today, when news really does travel faster than the speed of light.
There are lots of reasons to stop before you spew. Here are five, using the candidate for Senate as an illustrative example.
1. Words have power. People are pretty careless with the words they choose. Especially when speaking. For example, the mere inclusion of the word "legitimate" before the word rape inflamed an already-charged statement. That word alone sent the signal that Mr. Akin is one of the ilk that believes that women have a choice in rape. You know who I'm talking about. Those who live in the delusion that women "ask for it" or think there is a difference between rape and "forcible rape."
2. Your words will define who you are and who you are not. Mr. Akin's statements defined himself as the anti-abortionist he is. They also marked him as insensitive to women's rights and and unknowledgeable to their issues.
3. Your words can help and they can hurt. Sometimes simultaneously. Todd Akin's comments help to bring the issues of abortion and women's rights front and center. They help to remind those who might have forgotten that the Republican candidate for vice president, Paul Ryan, shares Mr. Akin's view that abortion should be denied even in the case of rape and incest and co-sponsored "The Sanctity of Human Life" act together, a ludicrous attempt at defining "personhood." They reinforce, as much as the Republican candidates might try to bamboozle the public otherwise, there is a war they've waged on women and it must be stopped.
4. Your choice of words are signs of your intelligence or your ignorance. Mr. Akin stated, "the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down," inferring that women who were raped had a degree of control over whether one of their eggs might be able to ward off the multiple sperm released in an ejaculation. That is not a statement that falls out of the mouth of anyone who paid attention or passed their high school Biology 101 class. That is a statement of ignorance, in line with Foster Friess' comment last February that suggested the best form of birth control for a woman was to put an aspirin between her knees.
5. You can no longer hide from your words or the truth of who you are. Contrary to what many, especially those in the public spotlight, don't seem to realize, once the words are out of your mouth, no amount of apologizing will put them back in. And while people like Mr. Akin would perhaps like the role and choices of women in society to revert to the days of the Pony Express (which ironically has its roots in his state of Missouri), it no longer takes weeks and months for news to spread.
When you don't stop to think before you speak, when people are careless with their words, when they contradict themselves from day to day, when they lie on camera week in and week out, invent their own version of medical science, make up the facts and then try to back peddle their way out of it, when they don't stop to think of the implications of what they are saying, rest assured, someone somewhere has it taped, tweeted or recorded. And with the click of a Google search, the gig is up.
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