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What the heck is going on???

September 10, 2009

Am I naive? I have always thought one of America’s strengths was to get along even when we disagree. I have always thought that we could have a good, bare knuckle debate and then have a beer afterwards.

Now, I’m not so sure after seeing the disgraceful display during President Obama’s speech the other night.

Look, I’m not a big fan of how Obama is doing this health care bill. We need it, no question, but I’m not sure all of our problems can be fixed with one magic bill. I like and respect the man very much. Further, he is the president of the United States. I was always raised to respect my leaders and pray for them, no matter what party they are.

This is why I’m embarassed by the actions of Represenative Joe Wilson from South Carolina shouting out “You Lie” to the President of the United States during a joint address to congress.  It’s disgraceful, but it seems to be the level of dialogue in our country.

We are so quick to go for throats anymore, right/left, prolife/prochoice, gay/straight, science/faith. It saddens me greatly.

This is where  I hope the Thomas Society can be the sort of place where we go at each other hammer and tongs, but still be respectful of one another. I know that if you are here, you are committed to the same sort of conversation. So, thanks for keeping this spirit alive in this blog.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. September 10, 2009 11:31 pm

    The spirit you hope for is here and it is very refreshing.

    However, as one of your large UK following , I was somewhat bemused by the level of otrage at the ‘ You lie’ business.

    You should watch a session of our ‘PMQs’ , (Prime Minister’s Questions’ ), I believe it can be got on C-Span and has a US following – there you will see real playground yahoo discourse.

    However, you also not allowed to use the word liar , although ‘”The honourable member for Chipping Wallop just said an untruth” is fine.

  2. September 10, 2009 11:41 pm

    Keep in mind that much of that descent into incivility and nastiness has been driven primarily by the hard right for decades. And over the past 8 years, it’s just gotten worse and worse. Living as close to the US as I do, and having a “ruling” party that seems to idolize just that approach although not getting away with it half as well, it’s worrying.

    But then, I remember the iconoclastic Pierre Elliot Trudeau, when caught by the Speaker of the House telling someone in the Commons to F-off, he boldly stood there and with a straight face claimed he said “Fuddle duddle”.

  3. Ms. Crazy Pants permalink
    September 11, 2009 12:00 am

    The great US tradition through much of its history is “might makes right.”

  4. thomas2026 permalink*
    September 11, 2009 12:56 am

    Yeah, but with the British, I always get a sense of playfulness behind Prime Minister’s Questions (love that, actually)

  5. erp permalink
    September 11, 2009 1:15 am

    Actually I believe even in the UK calling a fellow MP a liar outright would get a reprimand from the Speaker (though one can certainly imply he or she is lying). I’ll also note that the President speaking in the House/Senate is perhaps a bit closer to the Queen’s speech as far as the expected courtesy (remember both are also heads of state).

    I will note we have not yet descended to what Senator Preston Brooks did to fellow Senator Charles Sumner.

  6. erp permalink
    September 11, 2009 1:18 am

    Apologies, Preston Brooks was a Representative not a Senator.

  7. September 11, 2009 1:23 am

    The playfulness at PMQs is often a rock in a velvet glove type playfulness.

  8. Richard Eis permalink
    September 11, 2009 7:09 am

    -The playfulness at PMQs is often a rock in a velvet glove type playfulness.-

    House of commons stuff is sometimes amusing to watch in the UK as well for their acidic sarcasm and barbed civility.

  9. September 11, 2009 7:59 am

    There is a faction in the US that want Obama to fail, and they do not care how much damage they cause to get what they want. It’s more than incivility, it is actively destructive.

  10. Matt Jordan permalink
    September 11, 2009 8:36 am

    @Kelseigh, re: the “hard right”:

    I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. I find it troubling how often people–smart, generally thoughtful people; conservatives and liberals alike–suggest that various forms of ugliness are characteristically features of those with whom they disagree. I’ve heard a lot of people in recent years talk about how evil Republicans are. During the Clinton years, I heard a lot of people talk about how grossly immoral Democrats were.

    Doesn’t it seem far more plausible to say that folks from all over the political spectrum are capable of being immoral jerks? And, in fact, that the immoral jerk population is pretty evenly distributed along that spectrum?

    Rush Limbaugh may be an obnoxious blowhard, but are Keith Olbermann and Janeane Garofalo any better? (Or do some of us just like them better, so we give them a little more grace?)

  11. thomas2026 permalink*
    September 11, 2009 9:05 am

    Erp,
    Not yet anyway.

    I would agree with MJ’s point. I think the demonization happens on both sides of the fence and no one is immune from it. Sadly, everyone’s skubulos stinks in this.

  12. Andrew permalink
    September 11, 2009 9:38 am

    I’ve already pointed out how the moral disconnect between the left and right wings causes the right to see the left as immoral regardless of whether they really are on any objective standard.

    Also, anyone who has not yet read Altmeyer’s “The Authoritarians” should go read it now.

    Personally I’m less worried about concerns over whether people are being uncivil, or jerks, than about their apparently increasing detachment from reality; i.e. what people are saying is more important than how they are saying it.

  13. September 11, 2009 11:10 am

    Re: descent into incivility and nastiness

    Historically, this is not so much a descent as it is a return. Certain antisocial factions in the U.S. – currently identified with the fringe (or “base” depending on who you ask) Republican Party, but identified with the Democrats in the past (ever heard of a Dixiecrat?) – have been placated in recent decades because social and political movement has been steadily rightward. Nixon would be accused of being a leftie socialist these days.

    Prior to about 1980, this faction was very vocal and very nasty – McCarthyism, pro-segregationist, defeating the ERA. Direct violence as well as strong political rhetoric were employed.

    The election of Reagan and the overall conservative control of government, which reached its zenith through 2002-06 and had only a mild stumble with Clinton’s election in 1992, has placated this faction, which saw itself building a “permanent majority” in support of its agenda and in opposition to what had been (from about mid-1950 through the 1970s) a fairly steady movement leftward.

    This faction’s control has now effectively shattered and it is freaking out – to use technical political science terminology. This was not the way things were supposed to play out, and the faction is hoping that the Obama/Democrat resurgence is more like Clinton in ’92, than it is like Kennedy in 1960, or Roosevelt in 1932.

  14. September 13, 2009 11:33 am

    That Brooks and Sumner thing is screwed up. I had never read that before.

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