Tuesday, January 25, 2011


There are a lot of cartoons about tonight's gimmick at the State of the Union address. I wasn't going to post any of them,... but I changed my mind when I saw this one. Funny and perceptive, don't you think?

Frankly, I don't care about the lack of civility in politics. You should be passionate about this stuff. Apathy is a far bigger problem in America than passion. And the fact is, we have big disagreements in this country.

But what does that mean? It doesn't mean that some of us aren't "real" Americans. It doesn't mean that we can't compromise when necessary. (But it also doesn't mean that we shouldn't stand up and fiercely defend our own positions.) It doesn't mean we should abandon the marketplace of ideas.

You can think, and even say, that your opponents are idiots. Why not? But when you lie about them, that's wrong. When you suggest violently overthrowing our democracy - "by ballot or by bullet," "Second Amendment remedies," etc. - just because you don't get your own way, that's wrong. When you call a 13-year-old girl "butt-ugly" on nationwide radio, just because you don't like her father's politics, as Rush Limbaugh did in the 1990s, that's wrong.

Come on, this isn't rocket science! It's not a choice between holding hands and bloody civil war. There's a lot in between those two extremes, don't you think? Passion in politics is a good thing - always assuming that it doesn't close your ears and your mind to contrary arguments. Incivility is not a problem, unless you're encouraging others to shoot your opponents. (And is that really just a problem of etiquette? I don't think so.)

Am I impolite? Hell, yes, of course I'm impolite! Am I passionate? Yes. Am I angry? Yes. But so what? Maybe that's not the best tactic when trying to persuade others, but that's my decision, isn't it? (Actually, it's probably more of a personal characteristic, but that's beside the point.) Incivility is not our nation's biggest problem - not even close. I'm not sure it's even a problem at all, except in the sense that shooting people is uncivil.

So why are we seeing this sudden push for civility? Frankly, I think it's because a lot of people want to claim that "both sides" are at fault. It isn't true. Sure, both sides sometimes call their opponents Nazis. But only one side takes assault rifles to political rallies. Only one side uses violent rhetoric to imply they'll kill if they don't get their way. Only one side claims that those on the other aren't "real" Americans, that they're deliberately trying to destroy America.

And, I think, it's also because a lot of people want to claim that their political apathy - their laziness - is justified. Yeah, you're not one of those nasty, impolite people, are you? Instead, you sit on your couch watching "reality" TV instead of paying attention to politics, instead of debating the future of our country, instead of even voting.

Of course, both political parties are exactly alike, huh? (That's why they're so angry at each other, no doubt.) And all politicians are crooks, anyway. (Apparently, you're dishonest, so you think that everyone else must be the same?)

We desperately need clear-thinking in this country, and we need people who are passionate about that, even if they aren't polite. Hey, I could be wrong. But at least I'm trying. Can you say the same?

Well, I've probably violated all sorts of etiquette codes in this post, haven't I? Terrible, terrible me!

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