Monday, January 10, 2011

Political Civility in a Climate of Anger

I heard when I was a kid that people never really grow up but for the most part they learn how to act in public. The more I see of politics, the less I believe that.

Actually, I'm pretty disgusted at the current political climate. Yes, I know the elections of the 18th and 19th century made our politics look like a spirited game of Candy Land, but we are more civilized now - or should be.

The rhetoric and vitriol hurled at political opponents is beyond poor taste; far past disagreement; well nigh dangerous.

One only has to look at the senseless shooting of Congresswoman Giffords. The lady was a Democrat in a largely Republican district. She was the "target" of the Tea Party's aim for defeat (she was also literally "targeted" by Sarah Palin's crosshair map). The worst part is that Gifford even warned of such irresponsible words and her office was attacked before.

I don't think anyone will lay the blame on Sarah Palin or anyone on the right for this senseless act of an unstable person. Cause, no. Didn't help, absolutely. In fact, I have not read anyone saying Sarah is the cause, though I'm sure someone out there has already said it, for political purposes, of course. However, I've seen much defensiveness by those on the Right trying to circle the wagons and deflect any criticism for Palin's actions (or anyone else on the Right for similar stuff).

It does no one any good to compare a rifle scope targeting districts and "reload" as a mantra, to that of a long bow target. Come on. The comparison is not even in the same ballpark. Get real.

To be fair, the Left has to stop it's rhetoric that does the same thing, has the same effect, and will eventually see the criticism turned to them. Let's not be hypocritical.

It's a problem when the political rhetoric applies imagry that is dangerous. After all, it doesn't take much to put a Crazy over the edge.

So the politicians say things to stir the emotionals of their base in order to garner support. Mike Castle (R-DE) in an exit interview said:  "We'll have our leadership stand up and they'll tell you how important it is to beat the hell out of the other side, to make them look bad," he said. "They are preaching adversity; they're preaching a pure ideology, if you will. For those of us in the middle, that becomes very difficult."

As Chet Edwards (D-TX) said in the same exit interview: "What I see in the press is a tendency of FOX News and MSNBC, or cable shows on television, and radio talk shows to want the outrageous to speak."

The media then takes that and, in order to get more money from advertisers by increasing their ratings, exploits it. People hear that imagery. It affects them. They begin to think, talk, eat, sleep and live that rhetoric that was intentionally put out there by the politician to get that emotional response, and by the media to get those ratings. The electorate - all in a frenzy - means more votes to the political party. And it means more money to the media as the people clamor for more because it is what they want to hear

We are in a time when rhetoric is no longer civil.

And it is dangerous.

It is time our politicians and the media took responsibility for their part in this climate of anger. Fear mongering that marginalizes the "other side" may be good politics, but it can be the very word that pushes the next person over the edge.

Then I think about the result of this sort of post - on a blog that really has nothing to do with influencing anyone. However, I've already seen the Need for Civility used as a baseball bat to club the other side, the political enemy. 

Even when talking about being civil, the politicians can't; the media plays it up; and the cycle starts all over again.


No comments: