Ilhan Omar is not in danger from words

Ilhan Omar has generated a lot of criticism, but what we are seeing in response to her critics is an effort to set the stage to destroy free speech and insulate her and other members of Congress from criticism, backed up by armed agents of the state. Let’s be very clear here: That is the real endgame and this is why we must not fall for her false claims of victimization.

Incitement of violence is illegal and is not protected by the First Amendment. This is why death threats can be prosecuted, and the death threats against Omar should be aggressively prosecuted. But to say that criticism of Omar’s many gaffes over the last few months is an “incitement to violence” against her and other “women of color” is a dangerous stance. Categorizing criticism of Omar as “incitement” is the first step to making such speech illegal. Imagine a world where speech that criticizes a politician results in men with guns coming to your house to arrest you.That sounds like the Soviet Union or North Korea.

Finally, we need to be a little more dispassionate about things that politicians say. Everyone articulates things poorly from time to time, especially when speaking live, off the cuff. I cannot say this about everyone, but for me, that happens on a daily basis. Omar’s statement that “some people did something” was not in and of itself a dismissal of the seriousness of the war crimes committed on September 11, 2001. If someone wants to argue Omar has a long record of being soft on terrorism, then make that case. But to nitpick every poorly articulated statement is tiresome and childish.

While good and decent people categorically condemn death threats, even the harshest criticism is not incitement to violence. If Ilhan Omar cannot handle criticisms for the things she says, then she needs to resign from Congress and allow the seat to be filled by an adult who can handle dissenting opinions.

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