By now, everyone has read or heard about President Obama's speech to Congress last night, particularly the moment when Representative Joe Wilson's heckled the president with this unkind remark, "You lie!"
Joe was referring to the President's promise that the proposed healthcare plan will not insure illegal immigrants. We can assume that Joe has no love for anyone who crosses our borders to work without having been properly processed by INS.
Moreover, I'm guessing that Joe, congressman from South Carolina, must have read my blog on the power and effectiveness of two word sentences. No doubt, he expressed himself quite clearly in two words, one of them ugly.
Now, Joe, whom just about nobody knew (they were too busy following the sexual exploits of South Carolina governor Mark Sanford), has moved into the international spotlight. Just two words did it for him (that and a forum being watched intensely by media from all over the world)!
Joe has apologized, of course, telling the president that his emotions got the better of him; but, he has added his message to those ignominious few that will go down in history: Bill Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman," Joseph McCarthy's "I have here in my hand...," and Henry Kissinger's "Mistakes were quite possibly made by the administrations in which I served (regarding Viet Nam)."
What can we learn from Joe Wilson? Among other things, choose your words carefully. One word, two words, it doesn't matter - words have power. You can harm someone (or yourself) irreparably with one word (remember when David Howard lost his job in DC for using the word "niggardly").
Use the appropriate medium. If you're a little crazy and want to get the world's attention, find a way to crash a joint session of Congress and shout (wear or throw) your message at the audience. If you want to criticize the president and be seen as a rational and normal individual, don't shout while the president is talking, and certainly don't call him a liar. Send him a memo. Give him a call. Hell, text him; he still insists on carrying his Blackberry.