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Hm. Haven’t been in here in awhile. Clearly. “I love what you’ve done with the place!” Thanks. Redecorated over the holidays. Still getting used to it, but for now I think it’ll stay.

It’s hard to avoid the news this weekend, so I’ve been watching coverage of the shootings in Tucson. It’s just heart-breaking on so many levels.

Although. I have to admit, there is an interesting parallel between the furor in the 1990s over gangster rap’s violent rhetoric, and the furor today over political rhetoric. From a purely theoretical standpoint, Freedom of Speech applies to both. People absolutely have the right to say what they want (except “Fire” in a crowded theatre… but we’ll forgo the semantics). When you apply the theory of Freedom of Speech to reality it’s of course never quite cut-and-dry (Communism, I’m looking in your general direction).

Take the song “Cop Killer” (which took the brunt of the criticism when it was released). Arguably (and I will), a work of artistic expression. The song was never intended to be a call to arms any more than “Yellow Submarine” was intended to describe the Beatles’ current living situation. But despite its intentions, there will always be people out there who can take a song’s lyrics and twist them into a validation of their extreme beliefs. Cop Killer, not Yellow Submarine.

Although I suppose you could argue the point.

And I believed then—as I believe now—that we as a society can not and should not censor people or art or speech just because a handful of radicals might take things literally. When a society begins to do that, it’s starting down a very scary path indeed.

But just as much as I believe in Freedom of Speech, I believe even more strongly in personal responsibility. For words and deeds. And for their consequences.

Listen, you can cry “Freedom of Speech” all day long. But if you advocate or speak about violence toward others and someone acts on those words? That is on you. That is on your soul.

And I don’t give a crap if you think that it’s not your fault because the guy was just some nut job. Or that it could have been anyone that pushed him over the edge. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that something that you said caused someone else harm. At some level, you’re personally responsible for that. Own it.

Ice T did. Back in the 90s he made the decision to recall the album and re-release it, without Cop Killer. Personal responsibility.

Still love him for that.

Which brings us to today. I guess I can only hope that, after this weekend, people will just stop for a minute. Just stop and take a long look at how their words and actions are affecting others. Because unless people start to take some personal responsibility, there are going to be some really heavy souls out there.