Gunmen, Metaphors and Public Education

What a terrible story out of Tucson.  At least Gabby Giffords’ family and friends know why she was shot.  The other families have to deal with the randomness and the nearly impossible to stop mental reruns of the shooting and what they could have done to prevent their loved ones from being there.

Jared Loughner, the gunman, seemed to be unraveling mentally at least on YouTube. He was not unknown to the police.  He was suspended from his community college.  I didn’t even know that was possible.  Seems a little sophomoric but I digress.

Sarah Palin is no more responsible for the shooting of Gabby Giffords than Jodie Foster was for John Hinckley‘s attempt on Ronald Reagan.  Loughner and Hinckley are unfortunately whackjobs.

Still it has created so much discussion about the level of vitriol in our national conversation since Saturday. It is sickening and I have to admit I have a lot of difficulty looking for the “good” in people who inflame the vulnerable. That’s wrong – I am now become part of the problem and not the solution.  Oops.  Not really the plan.  The only way to civilized conversation is to be, oh say, civil.

Having said that here’s the thing I don’t get.  When did we stop understanding metaphors?

When Pat Buchanan ended his rallies in the 1990s with “Lock and Load” it never crossed my mind his supporters were going to do that with guns.

If a member of my sales staff comes in and says “I’m on fire!” I do not immediately search for an extinguisher.

Cyndi Lauper‘s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun was not meant to be taken literally (although at the time it sounded like a good idea!) and ascribed to all women all the time.

Ladies and gentlemen, I used an 80s, a 90s and and an everyday example.  Why? Because I would tell you every day of the week that I had a great public education back in the 60s and 70s. That I learned what a metaphor is and implicitly agreed to know it for the rest of my life.

Most of the hyperbole in our national debates are being spouted by people around my age, many of whom with private school educations that probably whipped the bejabbers out of mine, who claim to be in leadership positions in government, churches and organizations.

The steep decline in the education part of public education isn’t the problem.  It’s the failure of those people who had a great to superb one to use it appropriately or to take responsibility when they don’t.

If we now have people in their forties, fifties and older who have forgotten how to interpret a metaphor and younger people who may have never learned them in school then it is incumbent upon leaders of every stripe to STOP USING THEM!

Otherwise we’ll get to the point that not only the unhinged will take every message literally.

Please Note: This is a not a Democrat vs. Republican issue. There’s plenty of blame to go around!

NOTE: This is not a discussion of Republicans and Democrats.  There’s plenty of blame to go around.


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