These words were spoken to Harry by Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the eighth and final Harry Potter movie. The magic had ceased, the enchantments silenced, and the splendor of Harry’s and his friend’s supernatural journey of spells, witchcraft, and wizardry had come to an end. In their final meeting, where he speaks to Harry from beyond the grave, Dumbledore reminds Harry that at the conclusion of this journey it’s our words that hold the true magic. If you don’t believe me, think of how your child feels after a chastisement or after you praise him. Think of how your spouse feels when you are being overly critical. Think about how you feel when someone praises you…or says something unkind to you that just cuts to the quick. How do you feel after reading a good book or when your carefully chosen words show empathy or understanding? That is precisely why words are magic. Sounds, letters, and words are all innocent and benign on their own, but when combined with tone or inflection, words can raise us up…or tear us down. It takes no wave of a wand. Words–whether spoken or written–anticipate a desired response, but what happens when one doesn’t give the desired response? Who then holds the power?
I have watched and listened as Rush Limbaugh has been made a national crisis in the midst of one of the most pathetic presidential races of my life. The Republican candidates have been spewing religious and racial verbal vomit and calling it politics, rather than taking on the critical issues of unemployment, lack of substantial job creation, and the fact a country in the Middle East living in 10 A.D. is getting ever so close to having nuclear power, if it doesn’t already. Rush Limbaugh then rears his ugly, fat head and calls Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute. All hell broke loose in a firestorm of public outcry. Over the last week, I have heard more about my own ability, obligation, and right not to procreate, as well as where to find suitable and affordable contraception than I care to. The right and left knocked over all of us in the center. Everyone was upset–from my liberal friends (who felt Limbaugh needed to be shot at dawn) to those who shape public policy; they demanded he publicly apologize, and he did so (in a lame tweet) more to preserve the financial backing of his remaining sponsors and to maintain airtime from the affiliates that had not left him than out of remorse. Everyone expected and demanded it…except Sandra Fluke.
I have never been an advocate of political correctness, but I do believe a certain sense of decency and respect is a moral imperative–or at least an obligation–in a country where the first amendment is so cherished and protected. I also feel there exists a right to be stupid; even the Rush Limbaughs who dwell among us have that right.
What Limbaugh said could hardly be considered hate speech; he threatened no violence towards Ms. Fluke or any prostitute for that matter, nor did a riot break out resulting in injury or death on account of his stupid remark. And that’s what it was: stupid. His remarks stemmed from frustration due to lack of a cogent argument in regards to Fluke’s stating her views on women’s health, specifically the fact birth control should remain accessible and affordable regardless of where one is employed.
Sandra Fluke remained silent, but no response is certainly a response— and a powerful one. She demanded no public apology. She did not furiously hurl insults back in an angry or tearful knee jerk reaction. I wish she had explained to Limbaugh that he whores himself for ratings and an exorbitant paycheck by saying exactly what the redneck, bible toting, conservative right wing constituency that is truly a blight on the United States wants and pays him to say, and that in itself is the biggest form of prostitution that I’ve ever seen. Talk about projectile projection. But she didn’t go there. She had a perfect platform in the public eye to accomplish this, but she did not defend herself. Her 15 minutes are now up, but the way she handled this ugly situation will be forever be burned upon my brainpan. She chose to not make herself a victim and it was the most amazing demonstration of grace, character, and wisdom that I have ever witnessed. In a sense many of his critics not only wanted a contrite apology from Limbaugh, but also demanded Fluke be hurt and angry. But she chose not to give his words power, thus he had no control over her.
Many in my community and the nation at large gave Rush Limbaugh’s words power, and by doing so gave him more power than he deserves. It resulted in fueling his ego and boosting his ratings temporarily. He is still on the air along with Don Imus, Howard Stern, and Michael Savage. Why? Because we have given them power to use their words, their disembodied voices, on radio talk shows that tend to fuel hate, cause hurt, and to make others feel small.
As I stated earlier, I am not a PC proponent; we must always be free to speak our minds and share our beliefs, but with that comes a certain responsibility. Whether one chooses to exercise that responsibility is up to the individual. I disagree that Limbaugh, or anyone else who speaks his or her mind or who speaks on behalf of others, should be banned, fired, figuratively muzzled, or forced to apologize. I do believe that if we simply stopped playing the helpless victims, allowing our sensitive egos to be bruised by mere words, they’d lose their power to hurt and insult. By that I mean, we are responsible for the power we give to words and to those who speak or write them. The result would be that people like Rush Limbaugh would simply go away.