Then, once it was discovered that the shooter was a barely-political psycho harboring a John Hinckley-like obsession over the congresswoman, the conversation smoothly switched from why he did it (you know, since he was crazy, he pretty much did it because he is crazy) to why others could potentially do it (since we can’t pin “crazy” on someone, we’ve got to come up with something else). And so we were then subjected to theory after theory about how the toxic tone of American political discourse, while not responsible in this particular instance, was an impending danger to us, our elected officials, and even society itself. I hate going back to Paul Krugman, but he’s just so darn quotable. After more info had emerged, he shared that while “the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled . . . that doesn’t mean his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.”
Ahh, well, I’m pretty sure that the fact that he’s crazy means precisely that it should be treated like an isolated event, but quite a few others concurred with Krugman – enough that a “National Institute for Civil Discourse” was founded in Arizona. Also on list for improving civil discourse – mixed seating at the State of the Union Address, as well as a CNN anchor rebuking his guest for the use of the term “crosshairs,” and the promise of a bill to outlaw threatening language against lawmakers. Even the Reverend Jesse Jackson suggested that “it is exactly the mentally unstable who are most likely to be influenced by an atmosphere filled with hate and murderous rhetoric.”
OK, but would anybody really important care to weigh in on the subject?
It would seem that our president, Barack Obama, felt it important to “help usher in more civility in our public discourse.” At his Tucson memorial speech, he proclaimed, “at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do, it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”
That’s pretty profound. So I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I saw that CNN reported Obama as saying that the debt ceiling should not be "used as a gun against the heads of the American people to extract tax breaks for corporate jet owners.”
|It's about time we got some civility up in here.|
Hmm . . . I guess in this new era of civility, it’s still OK for the President to paint Republicans as gun-wielding hostage takers, ready to shoot you in the face (coincidentally, Ms. Giffords was shot in the face, wasn’t she? How insensitive!!!). Oh well, it’s just a return to politics-as-usual from the guy who said that he was going to change the culture of Washington. I mean, he said that whole “way that heals” thing like six months ago anyway, so I’m sure he doesn’t expect us to remember what he said way back then. I guess he really thinks our collective short-term memory is shot, though, considering not two days earlier did he say, in regards to resolving the debt-ceiling issue: “it’s my hope . . . that we’ll all leave our political rhetoric at the door.”
Hope in one hand, and change in the other. . .
To be completely honest, I don’t really care about the "hate-filled rhetoric" that encompasses our political realm – America has always been a nation distrustful of government and we were founded on our opposition to authority. As Samuel Huntington wrote in The Promise of Disharmony, “The distinctive aspect of the American Creed is its anti-government character . . . opposition to power and suspicion of government as the most dangerous embodiment of power are the central themes of American political thought."
I also believe that crazy people will be crazy, and bad people will be bad. So why should it surprise me that politicians will be politicians?