Sunday, February 13, 2011

Our Uncivil Discourse

Desiring civility in political discourse isn't merely about manners. Such civility is required if we are to have a functioning democracy where ideas are debated upon their merits and not from which side of the aisle the ideas arise. Sadly, the political discourse has become more and more uncivil during the last several decades and especially the past two years.

How many of you remember Ronald Reagan, arch Conservative, sustained his Presidency on divisive rhetoric? He constantly harassed Democrats as being Liberal and he created a storyline that laid all blame for America's problems at the feet of "liberals." From the tearing apart of the family, to the lack of backbone in supporting armed interventions, to the restrictive regulations placed upon businesses, to taxation being too high.

Such rhetoric was drummed into America's subconscious by the status quo biased mainstream media. However, the "reality" created by Reagan's fictions were anything but real: The breakdown of family (by every measureable standard) was largely the result of financial hardship due to joblessness or inadequate pay and federal diminishment of safety net outlays. Reagan used a contrived "exceptional exemplar" of the welfare queen driving around in a Cadillac to create a push to end the "welfare state" as America was being described by the rightwing media even as corporate CEOs were making obscene salaries and bonuses, even as corporate America continued to whittle away at the tax code to such an extent that a majority began to pay zero taxes (currently two-thirds of American corporations pay no income taxes.)

"Liberal" was a charge levied against those opposed to Reagan's Contra war against the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, a popular movement fighting an oppressive, murderous regime (Somoza); this "war," a pure terrorist endeavor initiated and funded by the Reagan Administration in defiance of United States law.

Reagan's manipulation of the word "Liberal" created a hostile atmosphere/context which extended to the financial and business sectors as well by removing from debate all those whom protested deregulation and wholesale giveaways to the monied class. Reagan single-handedly sought to break American unions. He lowered federal income tax rates which directly led to large local increases in school taxes.

Reagan won two terms with such patently absurd rhetorical onslaught.

Bush, Sr., Reagan's Vice-President, when he ran for the Presidency kept hammering Mike Dukakis with "card carrying ACLU member" to great effect. Yes, the American Civil Liberties Union, a bastion of defense against governmental abuse and assuring our civil liberties posited by the US Constitution's Bill of Rights, was portrayed as un-American. Bush won.

Bush's son, George Jr., also twice won his Presidential bids using his father's methodology of railing against "the Left" and conflating that segment's misgivings about America's direction as being "haters of America."

But, all of that pales in comparison to the past two years since a black man— Obama —moved into the White House. The Tea Party devotees conducted scurrilous media campaigns. Their use of terms like "evil," "Marxist," "Socialist," "Communist," coupled with their rally signage depicting racist commentary and imagery unsuited for political discourse not to mention their open display of firearms at many of the Tea Party events, was anything but helpful in forwarding the debate of principles and future policy direction of our nation. What it did was fan embers of hatred and create "enemies" of their fellow Americans.

As began with Ronald Reagan, patron saint of Conservatives, the right seeks to continually deride ideas not their own, denigrating science and facts along the way, via labeling any/all who disagree with their "vision" of America with a single pejorative in order to turn a dumbed down American populace away from consideration of the reality facing them.

After all, if you're a "Marxist/Socialist/Communist/ Liberal/Democrat", etc, then there's no need to listen to you; you have no place at the table. Of course, the Republicans using such disreputable tactics know exactly what they're doing, creating a fictive narrative to get what they want.

And, just what is it that Republicans want? They want government of, by and for the people to die and be replaced with only enough government for channeling what little middle class wealth remains to the coffers of the top few percent. Republicans want to destroy the middle class so that a vast new pool of cheap labor can be exploited. Republicans want only enough government to safeguard their interests at home and abroad.

Remember Sharron Angle (Arizona) speaking about lowering the minimum wage in order to spur job creation? In nearly the same breath she spoke to eliminating social security and of the sense of "entitlement" unemployed citizens have. Tea Party sweetheart Angle thinks American citizens should work at less than $8.00 an hour and save for their own retirement. Of course, such earnings amount to a poverty wage even if both adult members of a household can find such work. There is no disposable income to save. Angle was also the woman who kept repeating her "Second Amendment remedies" solution to anything other than total victory for the Tea Party electoral candidates.

Sarah Palin used "cross hair" imagery (as used in gun sights) to "target" opponents and when questioned about the appropriateness of such imagery stated to her supporters that now isn't the time to back down but to "reload" and "take back our country."

Republican leaders of both houses issued repeated and dire warnings against the "move to Socialism" under Obama creating an atmosphere of fear and loathing which resulted in Republicans refusing to participate in governance— no compromising with enemies, remember —and instead agitated via outlandish claims in hopes of winning midterm elections.

It all worked. And, then, in Arizona, there was a tragedy of monumental proportion; a sitting Congresswoman, a Democrat, was shot by a deranged gunman as were 19 others, six of them dying.

We immediately hear the Tea Party and Republican rightwing saying it's not their fault, that you cannot draw exact parallels to the deranged gunman and the deranged violence-engendered statements issued by the Tea Partiers and Republicans.

Republican leaders should have denounced such dangerous rhetoric but chose to use it to their advantage. Now that the piper needs to be paid, they cop out by crying crocodile tears and refusing to take personal responsibility. Palin immediately blames the "lame stream media" for a "blood libel" against her; she, not even stateswoman enough to understand using such a weighted term is totally inappropriate. Sharron Angle refuses to answer the pertinent question: "Does such a shooting conform to her Second Amendment remedies solution?" Tea Partiers, in general, now claim at every opportunity that they didn't hate, they just voted—regardless of party—for those whom would make good decisions for America.

So, that's why they voted to reinstate the party that has been decimating the American middle class for thirty years? Running up the national debt to the detriment of future generations? The party that has bankrupted America and murdered the American Dream?

Republicans, especially the Tea Party variety, must stop with the lies, the distortions, the baseless charges and begin to discuss the problems this country faces with a commitment to rectifying the damage their Free Market ideology and deregulation efforts have wrought.