Monday, January 10, 2011

V.S. of A.

Vitriolic States of America.

That's what I've been thinking of these past few days, after Saturday's shooting of a Congresswoman and bystanders in Tucson, and as the media has exploded about the event, the aftermath, and the meaning.

I was all set to write quite a bit about this topic, until I read Kristin's post that said it a lot better than I can.

I cannot stand how ugly and inflamed political rhetoric has become in this country. Our government needs healthy debate, that's true; but the default today seems to be attacks ad hominem, and that creates a very hostile climate. Our political system also requires compromises, and you can't entertain the thought of a compromise if you see your opponent as the spawn of Satan and label him/her as such.

And yes, it does seem like this gunman would have acted on his own paranoid ideas even if things were completely calm and peaceful. And no, there shouldn't be laws that try to police language even more. This has to be a decision by the participants, to see opponents as humans and fellow citizens, and disagree with ideas, not with people. I hope that this chance for reflection isn't buried by people rushing to defend the status quo.

One thing I've deeply admired about President Obama, from his campaign to his presidency, is his determined attempt to be civil and polite to his opponents. There are many (many!) of his policies and actions that I disagree with, but his respectful tone, attempts to compromise and meet opponents halfway, and listen to ideas from all sides, are qualities that I wish every politician in Washington would emulate.

I hope our whole country will take this shooting tragedy as a reminder of how fragile the rule of law is, and how angry words create an atmosphere for violent actions to occur. That's something every citizen should keep in mind.

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