Monday, January 10, 2011

An Uncomfortable Political Fact

Language has power and can create context. In light of the terrible events of this past weekend, Americans have begun talking about the tone of the language we use, its contexts, and its consequences. I think we should all be more thoughtful about how we craft our messages -- not to remove the passion and meaning, but to construct them in the knowledge that our political opponents are also our fellow citizens with whom we share this great nation.

In an attempt to practice what I preach let me say that I consider political Conservatism to be a valid and valuable contribution to good governance. Though I tend to side with the Left more often, that does not mean that I consider those on the Right to be bad Americans with nothing worthwhile to contribute. There are soundly reasoned points of view to be found on the Right.

David Frum is a Conservative author that I read once in a while because I've come to appreciate how he thinks through a position, even if I don't agree with all of his points or conclusions. In this article by him, I do agree with his final position that we need to voluntarily tone down the language in politics: 
"This crime should summon us to a quiet collective resolution to cease this kind of talk and to cease to indulge those who engage in it."

No one should exclude those on the Left from criticism when violent language is used. A few examples have been brought to light and those are just as wrong as examples from the Right. But the reason that so many instances of dangerous, vitriolic language are attributed to the Right is because that is where the majority of this kind of thing has been coming from lately. Even the examples in Frum's article were from the Right.

Please take the time to read this article by Melissa McEwan at the following link: "…although violent rhetoric exists among US leftists, it is not remotely on the same scale, and, more importantly, not an institutionally endorsed tactic, as it is among US right-wingers."

And this editorial by Paul Krugman at The New York Times: "Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right."

Pointing out where the violent rhetoric tends to come from is not an attack on all Conservatives. I certainly do not intend it to be that way nor do I want to intensify discord among my fellow Americans. But we cannot begin to understand the issue until we are honest with ourselves about it.

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