01/10/2011 11:21 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

No Moment of Silence: Speak Out Against Violent Language and Guns

I confess. Rather than observing the nationwide moment of silence President Obama called for at 11 a.m. this morning, I wrote this post. Silence is the last thing we need right now. We need speech: forceful, civil, principled, intelligent speech about the intensifying connection between mainstream violent speech and the so-called "fringe" violent action it encourages.

No longer do demagogues get to claim that their casual use of violent imagery has no effect beyond the airwaves or cyberspace. This was always a disingenuous claim, of course. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck move sponsors to pony up millions. THEY think words matter. Nativist Suffolk County (NY) Executive Steve Levy has ridden his anti-immigrant words to political success -- while his constituents harass, beat, and murder local immigrants. He knows his words matter. Sarah Palin's celebration of guns and gun culture had everything to do with why she put Gabrielle Giffords in crosshairs as a campaign tactic.

And when gun advocates persuade city after city, state after state, to pass laws allowing nearly everyone to carry handguns -- by what right, by what fantasy, do they not accept responsibility for shootings? What else are guns for?

This has to be what they want -- a political culture intimidated by the possibility we could all get shot for having ideas and being willing to say them out loud. They're getting it, too.

Liberals have now allowed themselves (OK, ourselves) to be intimidated into supporting unnecessary wars, a deformed Constitution, unprecedented deportations of immigrants, restrictions on abortion rights, and a new flood of guns into public life. How's that been working out for us?

Sorry, President Obama. Not silence. Speech.