If you've missed the controversy over the course of the year, here is a snippet of her original "death panel" remarks:
"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."
Clearly, the remarks made here are divisive; politifact.com has gone a step further and deemed them wholly without merit. To her credit, Palin stands by her claim. But she also stands by her choice of words, comparing the tone with President Reagan's decision to refer to the Soviet Union as the "evil empire."
While the "lie of the year" may go to Palin, her choice of divisive rhetoric is not unique. Unfortunately, language used to divide is becoming much too common.
Shakespeare once spoke through Juliet to negate the power of certain words: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
I disagree. In any society, words have an associated stigma for good or ill. If I was told to smell a beautiful red rose referred to as "diarrhea," I would at the very least be hesitant to take a whiff. Similarly, I would I have a hard time taking comfort in a political leader of any party who consciously used negatively charged words to prove a point. And while Sarah Palin may be the winner of this year's shameful contest, she is not alone in her choice of tone.
Words can be used to divide or unite. How we use them is our choice. It is not a requirement that politicians always agree. But it should not be a liability to try and get along in the process of disagreement. In days gone by, fierce but polite debate would often conclude with the phrase, "I respectfully disagree."
Perhaps it would do our entire society a great amount of good if we were all to add a little more respect to our disagreements.
* For an additional examination of divisive rhetoric, see my previous post: "Kill the 'Death Panel' Rhetoric."