Words can never hurt me? Not so

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Words can never hurt me? Not so

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The relationship between politics and invective seems inseparable no matter the era or country. Modern politics is full of invective.

U.S. Representative Bob Dornan used extremely crude language to lash out at President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Donan said that Clinton degraded the White House by smelling like a woman and wearing shorts that expose his thighs. Clinton’s response was no less vitriolic. “Whenever I see Bob Dornan he looks like he needs a rabies shot,” he said.

Biting remarks such as these make the people the remarks are directed at burn with hatred rather than reflect on their actions. They can incite people to act in ways they would normally never act.

Nevertheless, there is still quite a large number of people who try to express themselves with invective, not with calm words.

After Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot over the weekend, opposition to hyperbolic invective used by politicians in the United States has grown. The shooting appeared to target Giffords, but six people were killed in the incident and 14 others, including the congresswoman, were wounded.

Since the shooting, people have said that radical remarks are in part responsible for the incident. For example, take the remarks made by former Senate candidate Sharron Angle, who regularly talked about the use of “Second Amendment remedies,” a reference to the right to bear arms, when alluding to civilian revolt against Congress. During the health-care debate, Sarah Palin, a vice presidential candidate in 2008, said conservatives should “reload” and not retreat.

Political remarks should be refined because invective only amplifies people’s anger. And our political leaders should set a better example for the general public rather than incite their constituents to violence.

South Korea is no exception. Local politicians have made remarks such as, “Shouldn’t we kill everyone in this administration?” or “We must completely sweep away the evil forces and pack of vultures.” These remarks are comparable to those made by someone who thoughtlessly called a living former president a “dotard.”

The Greek playwright Aristophanes once said that politics is a profession suitable only for utterly ignorant gangsters. That is the perfect characterization of the current situation in Korea.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


By Kim Nam-joong
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