Just A Guy

Just A Guy

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's the prognosis for respectful discourse?

Okay, I'm probably late to the party, but have you noticed that it doesn't seem possible anymore for opposing sides of a political issue to just - well, discuss?  In the middle of this Holy Week, it's a little cheesy to use the rebirth analogy, but I have to wonder: will there ever again be public discourse that doesn't consist of opposing sides simply talking over each other, vomiting hackneyed political points or vitriolic, screaming attacks that don't even pretend to be rational communication?

The Code Pink attack on Karl Rove yesterday was frankly embarrassing, with the would-be performer of a "citizen's arrest" being outclassed by Rove's response.  Even so, he had to cut his book-signing appearance short because of the disruption.  Similarly, Ann Coulter aborted her Canada speaking tour after being verbally attacked so venomously and loudly that she couldn't continue.  Oh, and "students" at a minor University of California campus are shrilly denouncing the upcoming appearance of Sarah Palin at, of all things, a fundraiser for professors' salaries and student scholarships.  The examples go on and on, these are just in the last four days!

What are people so scared about?  Why do mere words create such unreasoning hatred and fear?  Whatever happened to "sticks and stones"?

I don't have any real answers, I just have the feeling that we've lost the blessing of discourse.  If we can't even talk about the reasons we disagree, how will we ever come to understand the points of view of those with whom we disagree?  And at the risk of sounding like Rodney King, I can vehemently disagree with someone else's opinion and still respect that person.  I just want the opportunity to process the disagreement without being screamed at.  Is that too much to ask?  For some people, apparently it is.  And our national discourse is suffering deeply because of it.

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