Just a few preliminary words about why â€˜gotchaâ€™ phrases pulled from one personâ€™s public statements are not automatically equivalent to another personâ€™s.
Itâ€™s essential to know the context.
Working with the elderly, I hear many expressions of anger and depression from my patients. â€œDonâ€™t get old.â€? they tell me. (Having missed the chance to die young and stay pretty Iâ€™ll just keep on keeping on.) I hear people say that they want to die. I hear people say that they want someone else to die.
Itâ€™s not something to laugh off just because they are old. Itâ€™s a problem and needs what remedy I can provide, inadequate as it usually is.
The first step is evaluation. Are they just venting their feelings, as everyone has a right to do sometimes? They are living with the knowledge that their time is limited, so of course they think about it and talk about it frankly. They donâ€™t need to be lectured about a positive attitude.
But elderly suicide and self-neglect is a real problem. I donâ€™t call the police when I hear this talk, but I do a quick check. Do they have the means? Do they have a plan? Does this feel real, is it recent, is it focused? If so, itâ€™s no less an emergency than if they were a teenager, and I canâ€™t leave without providing a plan for their safety.
Otherwise, I owe it to them to get them some helpâ€“to enlist their family, doctor or clergy in working with them. Iâ€™ve seen people brighten up and completely change their attitude when they finally got relief from chronic physical pain, so itâ€™s never too late to improve your life.
But again, each statement needs to be taken in context of the person and their situation. I had to remove a nurseâ€™s aid from a home because the elderly client made a threat and had the means. The aid would have stayed, but it was past my comfort level. I was not going to let her become collateral damage in a family dispute. Old doesnâ€™t mean harmless.
In the wider context, Jeremiah Wrightâ€™s comments are not equivalent to James Hageeâ€™s. The context of history, and the close relationship to the White House enjoyed by Hagee and his fellow evangelical leaders make Hageeâ€™s statements more ominous. The context of history makes recent â€˜mis-speakingâ€™ and â€˜jokesâ€™ about political assassination a threat with credibility. We have the script, weapons are everywhere and politicians must meet face to face with their constituency.
I hope we are moving away from the narrative of the political martyr, and into a politics of engagement of all Americans, from all backgrounds. I hope we will see an America where all votes are counted and elections are decided with the ballot not the bullet.
But weâ€™re not there yet, and recent loose talk should not be tolerated. Freedom of speech doesnâ€™t cover threats.