The Politics of Civility

I thought Jon Stewart’s speech at the end of his Rally to Restore Sanity was the best political speech I’ve heard in years. That’s sad considering it wasn’t a political speech at all. It was the finale of a comedy show. Granted, it was a show with a purpose, but it was still a comedy show. If you hadn’t noticed before, that’s what Jon Stewart does.

The thing is he’s right. What we are missing in American politics is civility. As a result, we’re also missing rationality and reasoned discourse, and this lack of civility, this lack of rationality is largely fed by the cable news media.

When I say that, I’m not saying I think Fox News is bad. I’m not saying I think MSNBC is bad. I’m not saying I think CNN is bad.

I’m saying I think they are all horrific.

They aren’t reporting news. They aren’t even providing honest analysis. They are just providing social agitation. They are agenda-baiting, revving up the rhetoric for the sake of ratings.

I no longer watch any cable news on any sort of regular basis because I’ve been ready for a good while now to see America turn it down a notch.

I plan to vote tomorrow. I hope you do too. I hope all of our voices are heard.

The world will not end, however, if the people I vote for do not win. The country will not be destroyed if the people you vote for do not win. You win some. You lose some. You give a little. You take a little. That’s the nature of politics.

It’s been clear for some time now that the country is fairly evenly divided between those who identify themselves as liberals and those who identify themselves as conservatives. Victory goes to whoever happens to be angriest at the moment, whoever happens to be revved up enough to get more people out to vote and more swing voters swayed.

Either way, the next morning the country is still fairly evenly divided between liberals and conservatives. We’re still in a situation where the only way forward is through mutual give and take.

And those people, the ones on the other side, they aren’t the big bad wolf come to gobble up every value you hold dear. They are just your neighbors, your cousins, your in-laws, and the people in the office across the hall. They are just Americans voting their own consciences as you vote yours. They are just standing up for what they think is right as you stand up for what you think is right.

I’m with Jon on this one. I’m for toning down the hate talk on both sides. I’m for standing up against using words like stupid and evil to describe neighbors and co-workers who are simply exercising their rights as citizens of a free democracy to disagree.

Voltaire is often quoted as saying, “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” One of the more popular signs at Jon Stewart’s rally said, “I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you aren’t Hitler.”

Yeah, what they said.

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