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God's will be done and may He have mercy upon us all.

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A Catholic who follows Rome & the Magisterium. I'm against gay "marriage", abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, human cloning. Altar girls, Communion in the hand, Eucharistic Ministers and "Protestant" music in the Church doesn't bother me at all. A proud American retired submarine sailor. Our borders should be secured with a 10 ft. high fence topped by concertina wire with minefields out to 20 yards on both sides and an additional 10 yards filled with warning signs outside of that Let's get energy independent NOW! Back Israel to the max, stop appeasing followers of the Pedophile Prophet. Pro 2nd Amendment, pro death penalty, Repeal all hate crime legislation. Back the police unless you'd rather call a hippie when everything hits the fan. Get government out of dealing with education, childhood obesity and the enviornment. Stop using the military for sociological experiments and if we're in a war don't micromanage their every move. Kill your television, limit time on the computer and pick up a book. God's will be done and may He have mercy upon us all.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Civil disagreement and fighting fair.

"So why did you even bother wasting your time?"

That was the War Department a few years ago when I related how I'd made a call to a local radio show on the topic of gun control. I'd informed the host I was all for having a discussion on the merits of it, that with the killings in places like Columbine I felt it was necessary.

I still feel that way. Talking about the merits of something doesn't necessarily imply the automatic implementation of it. A discussion can be just an exploration into the desirability of a given course of action. You weigh your options and pick the best one.

Anyway, the talk show host tried to nail me down with questions such as, "So you would have us abdicate our Constitutionally guaranteed rights"?

I wouldn't play that game, told him since neither one of us were lawyers trained in interpreting the Constitution it was misleading to speak in those terms. I reiterated my feelings that a national discussion on the merits of gun control was overdue. He finally hung up on me after a few gratuitously insulting remarks I wasn't given time to reply to. It was exactly what I expected and received.

So back to the WD's question, why did I even bother?

Because I was tired of hearing topics discussed where it's presented that there are only two possible positions and they're both polar opposites. I wanted a more centrist opinion (mine) voiced. If nothing else it lets whoever else might share my views know they're not alone. By daring to speak up when I knew I'd get demeaned and insulted I let whoever might truly listen know that my beliefs were strong enough to put me in the line of ridicule and abuse. That might indicate those beliefs were deserving of serious consideration.

More and more of that "anything goes, take no prisoners mentality" is entering the political arena. I don't know when it all started, maybe back in the late 60's at the Democratic convention in Chicago. Seems thats when polite disagreement started taking a back seat to the acrimonious attacks that substitute for debate these days. Maybe it was even earlier. I know that to some degree ad hominem attacks have always been a part of politics, it just seems to have spread unchecked like wildfire across the political landscape over the past few decades.

It's like corruption, incompetence or inefficency. We'll always have those problems because they're a part of our human makeup. Likewise there will always be a tendency to go for the throat in any political debate. It's by restraining ourselves that we actually accomplish something meaningful. That restraint has to be exercised by both sides, these days it seems its very seldom even one side will make any attempt at that.

And with the all-or-nothing mentality goes the tendency to demonize the opposing side. The justification to use whatever comes to mind in the way of insult, slander, mudslinging, etc. It's all grist for the mill of a given position. Both sides of the political spectrum do it, for every Rosie O'Donnell there's an Ann Coulter. For every Al Franken there's a Michael Savage.

Our nation suffers from it. Because as moderate voices are silenced for fear of being gratuitously demonized and castigated the only voices left to hear are the extremists. As time goes on the only positions left to choose from are the extreme ones. So any choice made by the public will be one brought to power by whoever has the loudest voice and deepest pockets. We become more like a bannana republic than the Republic envisioned by the Founding Fathers. It becomes a case of whoever has the most toys wins.

One side will take their displeasure with the President as far as possible, even to impeachment. That tactic is reciprocated in kind by their opponents at the first opportunity (the main reason I was always doubtful about impeaching Clinton). The accusations of "treason", "racism", "corruption", etc. get thrown back and forth so often that the words start to lose any real meaning. They become gratuitous insults thrown because they can be. Welcome to WWF style political debate.

Speaking of the Founding Fathers, there was a group that couldn't get anything done at first. They didn't trust one another, AT ALL!!! It was only with the realization that true progress required true compromise and a willingness to allow an opposing view a place at the Republic's table that anything began to get done. An attempt at civility and giving the other side a benefit of the doubt regarding their true intentions for our country. We've forgotten that lesson. All of us.

IMHO we should begin actually listening to one another. When the opposing side descends into an ad hominem attack they should be brought up short on it. Civility should become a standard to adhere to in public debate at all levels, even down to a kitchen table discussion on Saturday afternoons. The political equivalent of WWF style debate should be left at the door, only those behaving like ladies and gentlemen allowed in. I know it sounds quaint, ludicrous, naive, whatever. It's also what is needed.

I recall the Presidential debates of the mid 60's. They seemed more "gentlemanly" and civilized. At one point Barry Goldwater and Hubert Humphrey crossed paths at an airport between connecting flights. They shook hands, joked good-naturedly with one another and went on their way. There couldn't have been two more opposite points of political view than the ones embodied in those two men. Yet they could still treat each other as decent human beings. They could at least act like they believed the other guy might be misguided yet still have the nation's best interests at heart.

That's one of the things I've admired about the current President. In some ways he's been a complete failure. Yet he'll almost always refrain from the ad hominem, personal attacks against his critics. Not always, but almost always. It's something you didn't see in his immediate predecessor, I hope we see it in his successor.

Civility in disagreement. Leave the tactical nukes at home, fight like men and no cheap shots or hitting below the belt.

What a concept.

6 comments:

Masher said...

I was under the impression that politics is simply polite warfare. I do agree that the voice of mainstream America is unheard. In most elections not all of the eligible voters turn out to vote. Whatever the percentages are many simply do not see what difference it makes or what effect the leadership has on them. Of the remaining percentage that cast a ballot, I think about a third are centrist or what they call the swing vote with the other two thirds being either republican or democrat. They side with the party they hate the least. Why do you suppose there is no third party in America that stands for those people in the middle? Most other parties represent extreme political views. I am one of those people that holds our nose as we cast our ballots. Now help us find our candidate and we will be happy to help make some changes.

dustyanswers said...

One of the things I'm sickest of is people calling each other names, rather than stick to the argument. The moment you try to make a point or even discuss a belief, your character is brought into dispute. Conservatives are branded idealogues Neo-cons or any other derrogative, without even listening to their concerns. Liberals are branded flamming or loony, whithout trying to uncover their fears.

I think we all want the best for America...but our Americas are getting polarized and further apart. Balance is the key issue. Yet when Senators try to compromise on an issue the extreemists of their parties put a kaibosh on the proposal. Worst of all the fringe elements come into the fray and raise all kind of hulabaloo.

I was under the impression that our governmental system was set up so we had to compromise. Our founding fathers didn't want the vast changing of the laws that took place when one government was overthrown by another and all of the loosers were killed in revolution.

Lets debate the issues, but civilly. Lets listen to each other and respect the opinion, even if we disagree. There's a grain of truth in peoples fears, concerns and beliefs.

D.Lonewolf said...

Dialogue is becoming a bad word in our society as civility and discourse degenerate into a morass of yelling and screaming at each other. Lead first by the Media, then the talk show hosts, then the pundits, polls and press agents.

Everyone is trying to manipulate the emotions and fears of the populace. Racism is slandered at anyone who is trying to raise a standard. People are branded communist, if they are trying to protect the poor. The wealthy are branded evil thieves, because they have more than others, even if they worked for it themselves. There are good people bad people in the poor as well as the wealthy, in the Democrats as well as the Republicans, and in the Politicians as well as the citizenry.

We are all in this experimental boat called the United States together.

Subvet said...

Masher, dustyanswers and d.lonewolf it's good knowing I'm not the only one fed up with all the garbage that takes the place of honest debate. Thanks for coming by and posting.

Heather K said...

I probably shouldn't be commenting since I didn't read the whole post.. but I'm not sure gun control really works...? We have a gun registry, gun control laws.. and it's quite difficult to buy a gun...lotsa hoops to jump through, and we still have all kinds of gun related crimes and school shootings... so yeah... there are some that say that gun control takes the guns away from the honest people because a criminal doesn't buy his guns legally anyway.

Subvet said...

Heather K, gun control might not work. Problem is, no one wants to even discuss it in a civil fashion. That was the main point of my post.

And for the record, I own guns myself. After Columbine and a few other such incidents I felt anything that might act as a deterrent warranted consideration. But neither side wants that so I'll stick with the pro-gun crowd.

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