Following the tragic shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, it was predictable that along with the gun control discussions, the conversation would bleed out to include “hate speech.” It was also predictable that only conservatives would be blamed for that speech.

I understand the argument that going after someone because of their identity is an aggravating factor, and I even agree that it should be considered in sentencing. Having practiced immigration law for so many years, and specializing in asylum, I not only accept but vigorously defend the right of people to be protected against abuse on account of their race, religion, national origin, sexuality, politics or any other increment of their identity.

But even if I thought that it was helpful to graft an additional requirement onto the penal code, namely that some victims are more worthy than others (translation: Anyone but white Christian heterosexual cisgender males) laws against hate speech would never pass constitutional muster.

That’s also why I have a huge problem with the suggestion that opposing same sex marriage and, in the case of legislators, voting against legislation that would codify it and overturn the Defense of Marriage Act makes you a killer.

It’s not enough for those on the left to call their opponents bigots. They also have to make those on the right responsible for the bloody body count. Sadly, that seems to have boomeranged against them spectacularly in this case.

The Colorado shooter’s attorney announced that his client identifies as non-binary, and wants us to use the pronouns “they/them.”

The left reacted like deer in headlights, now that their preferred narrative was shattered.

If they accept that the shooter is a member of the LGBT community, they can’t blame Republican hate speech. If they say he’s just pretending to be non-binary as a legal defense, they are rejecting their central theory that everyone gets to define their own identity.

And this is the dilemma that hate speech leads us to.

On social media, I'm attacked and vilified with all sorts of slurs and comments I will not reproduce verbatim here. None are legally defamatory or  particularly galling, given my decades on the front line of hateful rhetoric.

And none of them were likely to incite someone to shoot me dead, even though they had a dehumanizing aspect. I would not accuse the people using this language of putting my life in danger.

As an aside, let me say that I have never been slandered by conservative men, and have found that males who self-identify as feminists have an impressive level of tolerance for misogyny against conservative women.

You only have to see the type of vitriol aimed at Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, Meghan McCain and every current and former female at Fox News not named Gretchen Carlson to see that name-calling is fine as long as the target is not a member of the favored political tribe.

And guess what? That’s OK. We’re all big girls.

None of us is whining about how the hatred is driving us to the edge of the ledge in our Jimmy Choos.

Which brings me back to my central point. When progressives try to blame every bad thing that happens against a minority on conservatives, they don’t need motive or weapons.

They weaponize words, which is the easiest way to gaslight the gullible into thinking that the pen is, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, deadlier than the sword.

That’s foolish, insulting and un-American. Words can inspire, and they can anger. They can defame, and they can honor.

They can create countries, rend them asunder, and stitch the ragged edges together again.

What they cannot do is kill. And no amount of whining, scapegoating and passive aggressive lamentation over the dead bodies of real people can change that fact.

Those who even try, are shameful creatures.

I have choice words for them, but I don’t want to be accused of committing a felony.

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Copyright 2022 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]