Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Responses to the Air America post

This probably would be better placed in response to the comments on my “Air America Is Hurting America For The Same Reasons Jon Stewart Pointed Out Crossfire Is Hurting America” post, but the comments I received were so thoughtful that I think it’s better placed here where more folks can see it.

Alison—Wow. Hadn’t thought of that. Incendiary rhetoric is good for centrists because it gives us something to rebel against. It makes me think of Malcolm X, who was incendiary but got us talking. But I don’t believe that this is the current status. As Stewart pointed out on Crossfire, the incendiary rhetoric has replaced civil discussion rather than promote it. I’d invite you to prove me wrong, though. Can you give me an example of when Malloy, O’Reilly, or Limbaugh has actually generated legitimate exchange or improved the country through their bullshit exaggeration and name-calling?

Spoon—I appreciate and understand your comments, and recognize that different folks like different kinds of radio.

I guess hold our own party to a higher standard than the worst elements of the other for a number of reasons.

If I understand you, you’re saying that revenge gives us the right to be buttheads in our rhetoric. I’ve never believed that revenge is a good basis for a decision. An eye for an eye leaves us blind and all of that. The kind of “resolve” that the shit I heard Malloy spouting might “steel” isn’t the kind I want in our political discussion.

I take pride in being a Democrat because I honestly believe our policies show more empathy for others. Empathy is something I value…and that means that we as Democrats need to respond to verbal abuse against any human being equally. We need to cringe when Pat Robertson is attacked as a probable Jesus-murderer the same way we respond to a similar attack on Clinton or Kerry. We can’t hold a double standard.

Where do we draw the line? Do we respond to Willie Horton with our own racially insensitive attacks? Can we use racial epithets if they do? Because they call us elitist egghead buttheads who hate our country, does that justify the Democrats’ equally ugly response of calling Republicans stupid, inbred, and racist? That would “steel the resolve” of the extreme factions of our party, yes, but the negatives outweigh the positives. If we win an election that way, and had to kowtow to that kind of constituency, the new administration would be a case of Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss.

I think we have different goals (and correct me if I’m wrong): yours is to get the Republicans out of power, and mine is to improve the quality of discourse in our democracy. I value our system over my party by a longshot. Improve the ideas and trust the people. Don't add a lefty Karl Rove to the mix.

Joe: My reading of the Gospels is different from yours. Didn’t everybody call for Barabbas instead of Jesus to be released? As Catholic youth, weren't we taught, at least implicitly, that we all were shouting "Crucify him"? It wasn’t the conservative religious people of Jesus’ day who had him executed, even if they were glad it happened. It was a government that didn’t like his popularity. I hate Robertson just as much as you do, but I don’t see them murdering those that disagree with them. Can you show me that he does or would in any unique way? Mike Malloy sure couldn't.

Lemming—I, too, matched all descriptions of Liberal—except for the fact that I go to church almost every week.

3 comments:

tommyspoon said...

If I understand you, you’re saying that revenge gives us the right to be buttheads in our rhetoric.

You're not feelin' me, man. There's a difference between revenge and self-defense. If someone attacks me, I insist on being able to defend myself. If someone calls me an "elitist egghead butthead" (your words -- and you're gonna have to explain to me how my head can be both an egg and a butt simultaneously) I am going to respond with a point-by-point refutation of those comments. Hopefully, I'll use better language than they do, which is what you want. But you have to have some self-confidence in order to respond to these kind of attacks. Unfortunately, our side doesn't seem to have this kind of resolve at the moment. You have to stoke the fire before you can cook a meal over it. Or, as a conservative friend told me recently: "You have to win something if you want people to listen to you."

I take pride in being a Democrat because I honestly believe our policies show more empathy for others.

Ditto. But you have to be in power to implement those poilicies. Empathy is fine, but it is a waste of time if you don't do something with it. I want our side to be back in a position so our empathy can actually help people instead of assuaging our own sense of guilt. Right now, our empathy is doing nothing for us except allowing Republicans to take cheap and largely unnaswered shots.

Empathy is something I value…and that means that we as Democrats need to respond to verbal abuse against any human being equally. We need to cringe when Pat Robertson is attacked as a probable Jesus-murderer the same way we respond to a similar attack on Clinton or Kerry.

That's a very noble position to take, TRP; I really admire your embrace of it. But it's not a very practical position in political terms. I believe that Kerry and Clinton are much better men than Pat Robertson. Pat Robertson has to earn my respect before I'll defend him. Although I will say that his involvement in One.org is a step in the right direction.

I think we have different goals (and correct me if I’m wrong): yours is to get the Republicans out of power, and mine is to improve the quality of discourse in our democracy. I value our system over my party by a longshot. Improve the ideas and trust the people. Don't add a lefty Karl Rove to the mix.

I think we both want the same thing, we just differ on how to get it. I believe that we have to win back the White House and the Congess, only then can we improve the quality of discourse. Oh, and one more thing: I pray every night for a "lefty Karl Rove."

tommyspoon said...

Ok, so I found this after I posted my comment. Even when confronted with facts, today's conservatives resort to name-calling. Your thoughts?

Joe said...

Two quick thoughts:

One, some people need to be verbally abused. I don't agree that civility (writ large) is a political issue; it's just a tactic. Your points about it being an inefficient or counterproductive tactic, and the need for real discourse, however, are well taken.

Two, there are 4 gospels and they disagree on who did what during Holy Week. In Matthew, IIRC, it's quite clear that the Sanhedrin whips up the mob to outmaneuver the Romans. In Luke, I think it is the Roman hierarchy which feels the threat of Jesus' movement. In John, as you point out, it's chalked up to, essentially, the Devil convincing everybody to make selfish decisions instead of brave ones. I admit I forget how it plays out in Mark.

But yes, I believe we do differ in our readings. In every one of those, while the mob has culpability, the mob also has leaders from the entrenched power structure.

At a minimum, I will say that the Religious Right's conspicuous non-responses to moralistic violence puts them in the same camp as Pilate's hand washing. You're right that they won't explicitly threaten violence, but I'm reminded of the Monty Python take on the Cray brothers... "nice store here, shame if something 'appened to it..."

And when you turn a blind eye to Matthew Shepard or the victims of Eric Rudolph or the September 11th attacks... who else is "the least of my brothers"?

I'll also admit there's plenty of Religious Lefties who'd wash their hands too, or even pull a trigger.