Perhaps we get the government we deserve. If we can not engage in civil discourse, how can we expect anything different from our politicians?
By Carl Petersen
Before bringing our daughter to one of Congressman Brad Sherman’s Town Hall meetings, we told her that it was a good chance to see Democracy in action. We explained that these meetings were the way our representatives meet with their constituents to update them on what they are doing in Washington and to answer questions that they may have. This did not prepare her for what she would actually experience. Instead of a lesson in civil discourse, she learned that there are some adults who need to go back to school for a lesson in applied manners. People shouted so that others could not be heard, booed loudly at answers that they did not agree with and refused to follow the rules for an orderly discussion. At one point the police needed to be called in to restore order.
Somehow we have convinced her to attend other meetings and none has been as bad as the first. Still, none have been shining examples of civility. People are mostly there for the right reason, asking their questions and listening to what the Congressman has to say. But there is also always a vocal contingent who does not seem to want a response to their inquiries, especially one that runs counter to their opinions. It is as if they are at home yelling at the politicians on television. To magnify the problem, their supporters seem to think that these meetings are a sporting event for you to cheer for your team. Is this how Democracy is supposed to work?
One subject that always seems to cause a surge in incivility at these meetings as well as online is Obamacare. Perhaps it would be helpful if people kept in mind that the President did not suddenly wake up one morning and decide to spend an enormous amount of political capital upending the health care system. The fact is he had run on this issue because the system that existed was broken. Even if opponents got their way and Obamacare was suddenly repealed, the system would still need to be fixed. At some point we are going to have to learn how to discuss the subject in a manner that allows the give and take of ideas.
Another issue that we cannot seem to talk about is gun violence. As I am writing this blog there is a report of a mall shooting. Almost immediately an anti-gun control organization posted the following on Facebook:
Shooting at mall in Columbia, MD...3 reported dead. Per reports that I have seen shooter is still active. So what are we being distracted from or is this an excuse to renew vigor on the gun control agenda? kc~” (1)
As inconvenient as this event is for the poster’s cause, it is nothing compared to loss that the family members of these victims are experiencing. Would it be too much to ask that we have a discussion about this subject without either side digging in to their positions? An effective solution is going to fall somewhere between banning all guns and everyone having unrestricted access to every type of weaponry. If the communication is really good we might even discover that some of the solutions will not even do with guns at all. Of course, we can go with the alternative and just keep yelling at each other. But that will not solve the problem.
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