What we’re losing without noticing.

Civility. Compromise. Discussion.

Remember them? Me too. I feel as if I’ve been a witness to their destruction at the hands of Stridency, Volume, and Exclusion.

Consider the news this week. A man with Parkinson’s disease, engaged in the simple act of letting his opinion in the face a of anti-health care reform protest – shouted at, mocked, humiliated. Was he hit or injured? No. Can you say you didn’t believe it was about to happen the first time you saw that video? Me neither. I feared for him and admire his bravery.

Where was the voice of reason in that crowd? I’d like to think I live in a nation where people are not afraid to protect those who need it, regardless of their political stripe. Yet none of the bystanders raised a hand to stop what was going on. “This is wrong, brother. I don’t agree with him either, but this is wrong.” That is all it would have taken. It didn’t happen.

This morning’s news is that Congressmen in favor of health care reform were spat upon and called hateful names that dredge up shameful portions of our nation’s history. What has become of us when men who are responding to the voices of their constituents can be humiliated for doing their job?

An important principle of our nation gives us all a voice. We’re all blessed by that principle. I’m not sure that principle doesn’t imply that we use that voice responsibly. Who in that crowd on Capitol Hill yesterday said “this is wrong brother. I don’t agree with them either, but this is wrong”?

On social media sites, opinions on health care are often met with strident opposing responses that come across as dismissive of opinions other than what the responder holds. Friends and families become estranged because the political atmosphere calls for not only rejection of opposing opinions, but shaming those who hold them.

My son will vote in his first election in November. After seeing the tone of arguments made on-line by admired friends and family, he has made the choice to speak only with his vote on political matters. I’m proud he’ll stay engaged in the process, but saddened that the tone of discussion these days is driving his voice, and probably others, into silence.

This is wrong, brother. We don’t agree, that’s our right,  but this atmosphere is wrong.



Filed under Diplomacy, Ethics, hate groups, Life Lessons

22 responses to “What we’re losing without noticing.

  1. PrairiePond

    That’s a great post, Oma.

    How do you suggest this could be fixed?

  2. fnord

    Great post, Oma. Good question, PrairiePond!

    I read recently about a school teacher who hung an effigy of President Obama in a classroom.


    I don’t know all the solutions, probably don’t even know all the problems, but I’m sure that adults, especially those who influence our children and that would include most of us, can’t behave in ways we would find unacceptable in children!

  3. dggass

    It’s the shout it out mentality and those who shout it the loudest are often the most uninformed. Encourage your son not to keep his voice silent, as long as he has facts behind him.

    • fnord

      Welcome to Prairie P&Ps, dggass.

      One voice at a time, we can move our country’s mentality back to civility.

  4. fnord

    We’ve allowed incivility to become acceptable. It really isn’t, it really shouldn’t be.

  5. Local news seems to thrive on if it bleeds, it leads. National is more focused on if it screams, it leads. The facts are that the last election indicated reform was desired. That is old news, the louder news is the tea partiers holding forth as representative of “the American People”.

    If you give any bully attention, you embolden them. I think that’s what happens here.

    I guess until we can make 24 hour news less profitable…the only other solution is to send the message to the media feeding this sort of behavior that it does not change votes or the desire for change.

  6. tosmarttobegop

    Thinking about that day it is still hurtful, my sister-in-law who I love dearly and I exchange. It was about Bush and shocking to me, her blindness and she was one I thought was insightful.

    Her unwillingness to even allow one word said about him as if he was prefect.

    Not since that fateful night in 2004 had Politics came so close to a shutting down of a relationship of someone Love so dear.

    Politics has became so destructive so intertwined with things that it should not!

    I can not longer stand to even see Chuck Norris on that exercise ad because of his support of Huckabee.

    The ad with Charlie Daniels is offensive to me because of his standing with Fox and their deceptions.

    I have came to worry about how similar the Conservative movement has became to the raise of Nazism. Take out Jews from the Nazi’s speeches and add Liberals it comes out the same as what is being said today.

    You can blame the media as was said if it bleeds it leads, the likes of Bachman or Limbaugh could have a gas attack and it will be covered like it is the voice of God.
    But there still is some reasonable Republicans and even Conservatives who could discover the cure for cancer and would not be able to have one word heard.

    Emotion has came to rule the day.

  7. fnord

    Maybe we need to be sure every American is a pet owner. Who can be less than kind and thoughtful if they learn the lessons their pets have to teach?

    • wicked

      fnord, sounds good, but there are pet owners who kick and beat their pets. Although one would think that a cuddly kitty or a playful pup could make all the difference, it ain’t so.

      Let’s face it. Reality sucks. But it always helps to have someone (like you) who looks on the brighter side and gives hope. Without you and those like you, we’d all be either killing people or slitting our own wrists.

  8. David B

    Who’s watching the House now??

  9. Zippy

    I think a lot of things led to this point. I think you can trace, to some extent, to the concentration of media ownership that was made possible by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

    Then came Fox News, the popularity of vitrolic talk radio, and of course George “With Us or Against Us!” Bush. The “fear your neighbor” ideology.

    Then we have the Internet, which may have saved us from having a completely ignorant, intolerant society, but also has allowed a thousand conspiracy theories to bloom, and caught newspapers–the first bastion of actual journalism–by surprise. And the imminent death of journalism is a scary thing indeed.

    Discourse about important issues has become like a football game, where you have to choose a team to even watch the game. One difference: the announcer actually know something about the subject!

    Just imagine:
    “We Al, we heard that Bret Favre molests children!” “I’d heard that too, but it’s definitely not true!”

    Someone out in the shouts “Do any of you idiots know anything about football? There’s a game going on, you know!”

    Original journalism–actual journalism–is coming from a much smaller, struggling number of sources. Reporters on the ground–especially in dangerous places–costs money. Doing actual research instead takes time, and, again, money. Plopping competing talking heads into chairs (never daring to question or correct their statements, since you’ve done no research) have become a Wolf Blitzer staple.

    News is entertainment now, and in that environment, competing ‘fan clubs’ is encouraged. All the better to sell more products. Gold, anyone?

    Maybe I’m different but, to this day, I’ve never seen how it was even possible to “hate” a sports team. Of course, no one wants to kill the Cowboys, or spit on them (well, maybe that), or call “America’s Team” traitors.

    But when you’re repeatedly told someone is
    destroying your country, it’s different. And the degree to which America has mismanaged–for some time–adds fuel to the anger, and someone to blame.

    I also think, having a black president–even a mushy, inconsistent moderate–in the wake of scary arch-right redneck rule is too much of a shock for some. And, as we’ve seen, America still has a lot of emotional damage from the train-wreck of a fear-driven presidency, which then proceeded to create numerous reasons to be afraid.

    The motto, it seems, is all we have is to fear. The ironic thing is,while we continue to send mostly young Americans overseas to get blown up for indeterminate reasons, we have become a nation of submissive cowards, not daring to examine anything for ourselves. And, for all the bravado, too many’s people reaction to the “scary terrrists!” proves it. Then we have a contigent of the same who get all worked up about. . . .taxes.

    The crappy economy makes people retreat to where they are most comfortable, I think.

    But I think ultimately Pogo was right.


    Not “us,” in the sense of fill-in-the-label (though I know plenty of folks to blame for certain things). Us in the sense of one human family and one human planet.

    And it’ll be up to us to clean up the mess.

  10. fnord

    I like your post Oma, but this is the part that speaks to me loudest —

    “An important principle of our nation gives us all a voice. We’re all blessed by that principle. I’m not sure that principle doesn’t imply that we use that voice responsibly.”

    I’m surprised it doesn’t speak to those who loudly proclaim individual responsibility, but that doesn’t seem the case since they lost the last two elections.

    Yet, elections have consequences! The people spoke and it is the responsibility of those we elected to do what they said they would! Why are Republicans surprised? Were they not paying attention to the campaigns? Health-care reform was the biggie and mentioned at each opportunity!

    • Was just talking about that with my wife. How is it they’re surprised? A large majority of the nation voted for exactly this change…if not more.

      The “American People” spoke in the election. What we see now is a rude, noisy, aggressive minority misrepresenting itself as a majority.

      Responsible use of their voice would be co-operation on some level, not issuing talking points and sending out people to intimidate all who oppose.

      • fnord

        I have confidence in Americans; ignorant anger won’t suffice as a political platform.

        I am convinced the Republicans know how badly health care needs reform, and recognize this as a great moment for Americans. That’s why they’re so cranky. It doesn’t make sense to not share in this victory, but they fought it so hard, wanted so badly to keep President Obama and the Democratic majority from succeeding they’ve painted themselves into a corner.

  11. David B

    The Republican’s stated goal was to stop this plan. It seems they have failed, just like the previous Republican administration failed the public.

    It must be humiliating for them to be so demonstrably wrong, time and time again.

  12. David B

    If all goes well… Should we have a celebratory meet up??

  13. indypendent

    When I heard Todd Tiarht on KAKE 10:00pm news tonight saying that we need health care reform but not this bill – I just wanted to throw my shoe through the television set at his pointed little head.

    Republicans (Tiarht was there all this time) had their chance to do health care reform when they had total control of the White House and Congress.

    So why didn’t they do something then?

    Republicans have always been on the wrong side of social issues – Medicare, Civil Rights, Equal Pay for Women – to mention a few. So, I am not surprised by their lack of doing something about health care reform when they had the chance.

    But to hear Tiarht imply that he really is for health care reform – just not this bill – is more than I can stomach.

    If there is a God, Moran will knock Toadstool Todd off his perch and then the Democrat will knock Moran off his perch.

    • iggydonnelly

      Gee indypendent, if this is the standard we are setting for God to do his work, we might be disappointed here in Kansas.

  14. fnord

    We all agree the health care legislation isn’t what we wanted or deserve; then we go in totally different directions with our opinions of what we think it is. We only find agreement in what it isn’t. But we’ve done our disagreeing peacefully, with respect for one another. We are civil people who conduct ourselves as adults. When Oma talked to me about this post he said it would be ‘preaching to the choir,’ but wanted to get it out there.

    With regard to adult conduct, civility and the passing of health care legislation, the improper conduct and lack of civility the Republicans are showing will do greater harm to their cause than anything else. It will far overshadow any and all the weaknesses of this bill. Republicans look like the recalcitrant children they have become and that won’t be attractive to any voter outside their very small base. If they continue on the path they’ve promised of not just “No, but HELL NO,” they will do themselves in much faster than any other method could accomplish the same.

    We aren’t the only adults concerned about how acceptable lack of civility is becoming! And we certainly aren’t the only voters who want the adults to be in charge!

  15. wicked

    What blew my mind last night during and after the vote were the call-ins on C-Span. People were saying outrageous things, and when the moderator (or whatever he’s called) would ask, “Where did you hear that?”, especially in respect to one caller who said the health care bill was a $10 trillion dollar deal, the idiot caller named some rightwing piece of crap. I should have remembered which one, but my mouth was hanging open at the pure lunacy of this person.

    So, yes, this was all about fear, fear by the R’s that they might lose their foothold–that foothold that put us a few trillion in debt-not-on-the-books aka Iraq. But like most conservatives, if it’s not on the books, it doesn’t count. I suspect that’s how they run their businesses, too.