Thursday, March 25, 2010

Putting the Coarse in Discourse

When I saw the headlines in the newspapers on Tuesday, and the follow-ups yesterday, I had a lot of shadows to jump over. After all, I live in a small Northeastern state regarded as one of the more liberal politically in all fifty of these United, and yet, here was proof positive that we cannot outrace our own prejudices and fears.

If, like me, you thought the Connecticut White Wolves, were a semi-pro football team, feel free to claim your dunce cap from our lovely assistant and grab a chair in one of the corners of our state, possibly The Quiet Corner, and think about what we have done, or, more importantly, not done. Understanding that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, the fellows of Battalion 14 have been allegedly busy doing what so many others only talk about. And that's the reason for my disquiet.

All of us can recall vividly the heat and hurt in the volumes of invective on ALL sides of the health care debate (assuming you define 'debate' as screaming at one another) over the last fourteen months. As a kid in New Jersey, we had a rule for our cut battles (the put-down contests we gnomes and trolls engaged in to make us feel like we were somebody): no mothers. It served us well, but it looks like we've abandoned that for the more universal scorched-earth approach that's been the default since the dawning of the time.

In recent years we had a 'village idiot' as President, a person many insisted had grifters and grafters for advisers. As a matter of fact there were days, if not weeks, at a time when it was hard to find anyone who had voted for this man-much less voted for him twice. But, in a way, that was okay because on the other side, we had liberals (I don't have a keyboard with a sneer font, because that's how some always say this word ) who somehow tricked us into electing a person whom some claim isn't even an American (GASP!)

Of course, all of the above is hyperbole and purple prose and it should fall under the heading of 'sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me', except words do hurt if you pile enough of them on top of one another and never correct, rebut or refute any of the mischievous misstatements or lies loosed in the heat of the moment.

Which brings me (back) to the Battalion 14 Book at Bedtime Group. When did we, a nation of as diverse a group of people as have ever been in one geographical location, become these people? When did the melting pot reach the boiling point and of more immediate concern, what are we (ALL) willing to do about it?

We have too many challenges facing us as a nation right now to return to the Gangs of New York Nativist Know-Nothing Nihilism that looks oh so fashionable in sound bytes on the evening news and solves NOTHING. We are not so much a nation as we are a revolutionary idea-a proposition so absurd on its face that almost no one, anywhere on earth at the time we told His Majesty to pound sand, gave us a snowball's chance in Hades of succeeding.

And yet here we are, not just an idea, but an ideal for the rest of the world, but so filled with self-hatred we cannot and will not encourage or improve ourselves at a moment so precarious, that we haven't been here in close to eighty years. And what are we expending our energies on? Gotcha with guns, it seems, when words fail.

We didn't invent this form of government-but we are its poster child to the world. Remember the faded slogans on the walls from back in the day? "Ballots not bullets. Choose or lose." What happened to the power of ideas to change lives? When did we decide to stop believing in the majesty of the thoughtful voice? Too many men and women for two and half centuries have sacrificed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor so that we could claim as our own, the right to be disagreeable and hateful towards one another, to EVER dare to decide to behave that way.

Each of us knows better. We must learn, or learn again, to respect the opinions and beliefs of others even when they are different from our own (even when they are wrong), and return civility to our civil conversations. Intolerance of others has led to insanity in our past on this planet. It doesn't take a lot for it to happen again, or many to make it so. Nein, sie brauchen keinen Führer nein, sie können's jetzt auch alleine. Leider.
-bill kenny

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