There is an adage I remember from my childhood: Watch your thoughts for they become words; your words become actions; your actions become habits; your habits are your character.

Regardless of any affiliations, people are obligated to denounce dangerous rhetoric when they see or hear it. The National Rifle Association is getting a lot of criticism for its claim that “the mainstream media love mass shootings” and rightfully so — such language is indefensible. However, I don’t see an equal amount of criticism toward similar statements made by Parkland student Emily Gonzalez who spoke of politicians, “they accept this blood money, they are against children … You are either funding the killers, or you are standing with the children.” Or David Hogg, who made a similar statement, claiming the American government takes money from child murderers.

Such statements are equally as egregious as those made by the NRA, yet have received little criticism. That lack of criticism gives such statements an air of legitimacy they are not worthy of.

Rhetoric like that of the NRA, Parkland students and many others, aims to demonize those with opposing views and, as a result, hinders dialogue. If people ever wish to see an end to violence, other people’s opinions must be approached with compassion and a desire to understand.

History has shown us time and time again — when dialogue breaks down, violence soon ensues.

If society welcomes such divisive rhetoric, it can only expect further intolerance to then perpetuate its collective character.

William Rolfe, West Paris

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