You are hereWashington Post: Americans contemplate toning down their rhetoric

Washington Post: Americans contemplate toning down their rhetoric


January 11, 2011- Angry and grief-stricken over the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday, Alicia Berhow typed out a Facebook posting she'd later regret. As she recalls, it went something like, "Sarah Palin, you disgust me."

In doing so, she now says, she became part of a problem that she believes was illuminated by the incident that took the lives of six people and injured 14 others, including Giffords: the coarse tenor of the political conversation in the United States these days. A day later, after her emotions had subsided, Berhow pledged to use her words more carefully.

"We lose the decent part, and that can be difficult to get back," recalled Berhow, a former Democratic congressional staffer who now works for a business association in Orange County, Calif. "Words do have consequences."

There is no evidence that the suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, was motivated by a partisan ideology or a call to arms - metaphorical or otherwise - that he might have heard on the radio or seen on cable television. But the incident spurred some self-reflection among many who said it was a reality check, a reminder that the country could do with a more civil tongue and some mutual respect.

Dozens of people responded to a Web inquiry in The Washington Post that asked if they were examining their own tone in the wake of the shootings. Many were defiant, confident that they had struck the right balance while the other side of the political spectrum was going too far. Conservatives, under attack from liberals who initially blamed the tea party movement, defended the passion they have expressed over the past two years and accused liberals of trying to silence them.

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