Monday, October 8, 2007

The Changing Times - Loss of Civility

Maybe it’s a generational thing, but even at age 72, I still refer to ‘older’ people as Mr. Mrs., Miss., and not by their first name unless I know them. Therefore, it is somewhat annoying to go to a bank, or the like, and have someone that wasn’t born yet when I opened my bank account call me ‘Vince’. Not only do I dislike being called ‘Vince’ instead of ‘Vincent’, but the overly familiar address to me by a child of the times is to me disrespectful.

This kind of encounter today is also an indication of how low we have fallen from the days not long ago when people made an effort to ‘not disrespect’ each other while criticizing. Can you, like me, remember when it was appropriate for those that disagreed to do so respectfully? We don’t need to go back to the formation of our country for examples, we can look back a mere 30 or 40 years ago, perhaps less, when disagreeing politicians did not resort to name calling or outright lies to disparage an opponent. Yet today, we have an entire political party, whose symbol is, appropriately enough, a ‘jackass’, with members that resort to the harshest of rhetoric, no doubt because they have no intelligent arguments to advance instead.

Throughout the news media, incredible labels are used to refer to President Bush, and conservatives, (I deliberately don’t use the term Republicans because many Republicans that disagree with conservatives are media darlings). It is quite common to see the president and conservatives identified in the "news" as ‘terrorists’, ‘idiots’, ‘liars’, ‘traitors’, and worse. When language skills of these critics rise to the level of the ability to create phrases, we are told that conservatives ‘want to kill children or old people’, ‘want to take the food out of the mouths of the unfortunate that have not won life’s lottery’, ‘have lied us into war’ or ‘terrorized poor Iraqi people’. I am sure you can add many, many more examples; all you have to do is pick up the local newspaper or tune in to major network news.

It is more than shameful to see or hear prominent people, some of them "so-called" leaders, speak in these terms about honorable, well meaning people. The constant barrage of this hyperbole is very infuriating. The fury is made worse by the lack of repudiation of such absurdities by conservatives. It may not be easy to mount a similar offensive without the majority news media as allies, but there are ways to get the correct message to the American people to counter distortions and lies. The president is in the best position of all to do this because of the ability to use the ‘bully pulpit’. However there are other means available.

During the Clinton administration, hardly a day would go by without some spokesman or other, sometimes cabinet members, and usually more than one, going on television singing the praises of the most morally corrupt president in history. How many times did we hear that performing a sexual act in the oval office was not important and in any case, was a private matter? (I shudder to think what a ‘public’ matter would be, performing on the White House lawn?) Probably the most absurd of all was the excuses given by Clintonistas that lying under oath about sex was all right and not worthy of condemnation.

What the conservatives need are articulate voices, of whom there are many, that will constantly appear on the TV ‘news’ and other shows to address the liberals and their nonsensical allegations and accusations. American people on the whole are fairly capable of sorting the trash, but as Goebbels showed the world, lies repeated loud enough and often enough can be effective to sway public opinion.

No comments: