Friday, November 23, 2007

Political Civility

Another place I used to write for had reader regularly accuse me of incivility in the political arena - generally ascribed to my being a left loon - and I really did very little to dissuade them of the idea. There is a reason for incivility beyond being generally overwrought, it also the action of calling a thing what it is, a lie is a lie; a person engaging in that conduct is a liar. That is something considerably different than arguing a point regarding the benefits of small government versus large active government. If that one stirs you into throwing rude adjectives and adverbs all around, you need a hobby. You may not convince a dedicated opponent, but there are a lot of folks out there who aren't dedicated, they're looking for information and a persuasive argument - chances are a bunch of frothing at the mouth ain't that.

When Mitt Romney stood up in a debate and stated an absolute falsehood regarding UN Inspectors, never corrected it, and wasn't corrected by any of the others I lost my mind. He made an untrue statement in order to justify a policy, it was his linch pin, and even when called out for it later made some comment about context. Why you lying sack, the context was that it bolstered your policy - it was not taken "out of context" - other than it wasn't debate night when you were called on it. That is not a policy difference, I could have lived with that and not gotten real basic with language. We do no one a service when we allow or downplay this kind of thing.

George Bush and his administration have lied to the American people. Some try to make the case that the WMD intelligence was flawed, maybe some of it was, but there were great gobs of garbage that they knew was just that. They continue to get away with it because they're not called on the garbage, a relative handful of people call the lies just that, but the media maintains civility. They just cannot work up to stating plain facts with plain words. When Cheney states months after it's been disproven that Saddam was tied to al Qeada and 9/11 it is not a misstatement, it is an out and out lie. Nobody stood up and said, "Why that's a bald faced lie," not one. This stuff isn't spin, it isn't mistakes, it is lying.

Halliburton didn't "over-charge," they committed theft, they are thieves not some confused corporation. They were forced to pay back money, they didn't offer it, it was taken back. Now just exactly why criminal charges weren't levied might have to do with connections rather than facts.

There is a difference between pussy-footing around language and civility. It is entirely uncivil to ridicule Dennis Kucinich for being short and homely and having a tall beautiful wife, it's the same thing to pick on Rudy for having some gay friends or too many marriages. It is not uncivil to call Rudy an authoritarian, that's what his policies are, but to call him names is another thing. I don't find any personal connection to the man, politics aside, but I won't make an issue of it. My personal taste in personalities is not an issue, whether I find a candidate likable or a complete s***head is not germane to anything other than whether I'd choose to spend time around them.

I am not going to refer to illegal immigrants and immigrants with the same term of immigrant, it is inaccurate and lumps together people who should not be lumped. I am not going to call voting in violation of the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the US something other than treason, whatever Party. No end is served by calling things by other names than what is accurate. It is not civility, it is participation in the degradation of our system.

It would be entirely uncivil to make a large deal out of public official's sexual orientation or "misadventures" like getting caught up in a prostitution prosecution, it would be if their public life wasn't to a great extent defined by their puritanical political policies. It isn't the sex that's the issue, it is the public hypocrisy, another form of lying. I call the President George II and his administration BushCo because they are demonstrably true short-hands, there are a heck of a lot of names I don't call him. I don't call him those despite his bullying tendency to make "pet names" for his sycophants who evidently tolerate that behavior.

I don't call people traitors for having a difference of opinion on a direction to take regarding Iraq, I think BushCo is making us much less safe, I believe they're getting troops torn up and civilians killed to no good point, but I don't call them traitors. People who torture in the name of this government or direct it are criminals and a disgrace to the nation. I can't think of any interest served to play at naming it a crime.

There are two major parties in this country, the Democratic and the Republican Parties, nothing is served by making rude or mocking names out of either. No matter what your political bent you are perfectly aware that there are fine people who belong to one or the other Party.

There is plenty of rudeness in the political arena today, there are plenty of enemies where there need be none and much of that behavior has generated real anger and it is time to stop that. There is no reason whatever that Congressmen from opposing views cannot sit down and have drinks after work other than the nonsense that goes on. I can think of lots of reasons why I wouldn't sit down with a liar or thief, but those really are in short supply and that's the shame of it. People who should be shunned by all aren't and political opponents are. The problem isn't a lack of civility in politics, it is the misapplication that's the problem. There are things worth fighting over and there are also things worth disagreeing over and there is a difference and it is important to recognize it.


KISS said...

political civility conjures words like baby, caitiff, chicken*, chicken heart*, chicken liver*, coward, cream puff*, crybaby, daisy*, featherweight*, fraidy-cat*, jellyfish*, lily liver, loser, milksop, momma's boy*, namby-pamby, pansy, pantywaist*, puppy*, pushover, scaredy cat*, schlemiel*, sissy, wuss*, wussy*, yellow belly* weakling and that fine ambassador to Germany Neville Chamberlain. Just one man's opinion of political civility.

Oregonian37 said...

Thank you for this post. I was going to post on the same topic but you have done a much better job of it. The current spat between supporters of various candidates here in Oregon has gotten on my last nerve because it has devolved from differences in opinions into personal attacks and when the time comes for all of those folks to come together and really work together, how are they going to do it? If folks think that "well we just drop our differences and get it done" really happens after that kind of personal attacking and sniping, they are sorely misguided.
Democracy is messy, noisy, and never calm (it's not supposed to be) but it is, and can be, civil.

Oregonian37 said...

In the words of former Congresswoman Lindy Boggs of Louisiana, “never fight each fight as if it were your last,” because today’s adversaries may well become tomorrow’s allies.

Anonymous said...

Would it be considered "bad form" to talk about removing Pelosi as Speaker, to make way for civility and impeachment? ( Details: Would civility be enhanced with a change in the House leadership? )

Chuck Butcher said...

Replacing Pelosi isn't a matter of civility, it is how the discussion is conducted. There are going to be two sides to the argument, do you propose to respond rationally or simply with 'traitorous enablers' to those who disagree? Disagreeing isn't incivility in itself, it is the manner.