Sunday, January 9, 2011

What happened to civil discourse?

Is it just me, or has society become less tolerant, more vociferous, and less willing to politely agree to disagree?

Case in point: The reactions to yesterday's horrific, tragic shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, where Giffords was to meet and speak with her constituents.

Heated and emotional responses and speculation are always to be expected after such events. But I was still shocked by some of the discourse -- and how quick people were to point fingers and hurl abuse, often just because someone disagreed with them. I was even more shocked to find myself the subject of such abuse -- me, someone who never attacks anyone and always tries to see both sides. And all because I left the following, somewhat hastily written, comment on my two go-to political blogs.
Speaking of Sarah Palin, Piers Morgan tweeted this article in HuffPo about a possible Palin connection. (Doubt there’s a hard connection, but still, downright eerie.)

Also just watched Obama. Kind of chilling. Bill Clinton would have been in tears one minute, pointing a finger and going ole fire and brimstone the next. Obama, on the other hand, was… Obama. Sigh.
Now, I am not completely naive about the perils of blogging, or commenting on blogs, and was expecting that someone would comment on my comment (and not necessarily in a nice way), but I was totally unprepared to be viciously and personally attacked, which several commenters on the blog Balloon Juice did -- even though the ringleader started off by admitting he may have misunderstood me (which he clearly did). Of course, that didn't stop him and his cohorts from attacking me.

I was so shaken (literally, I was shaking and felt momentarily afraid), I quickly got off my computer and had to take some deep breaths.

After somewhat recovering, I was curious to know what if any reaction the comment had received over on Rumproast. There too there was some confusion about my reaction to Obama's press conference. (Was I saying Obama didn't handle the situation properly? That he was a bad President? To which my answers are "no" and "no."*) However, unlike on Balloon Juice, I was not viciously attacked for my opinion. And the calmer, quieter, civil (though disagreeing) responses made me realize I had done a poor job of communicating what I meant on both blogs (and that some people -- not the people who commented on Rumproast -- are just pricks who get off on making other people feel bad).

The experience has also made me question, not for the first time since President Obama was elected, whether the politics of hate has grown stronger -- and whether civil discourse, and arguments based on fact, if not endangered, have become exceedingly rare, with people preferring to attack one another, and spew inaccuracies and invectives, than engaging in well-reasoned debates, or politely agreeing to disagree.

What do you think?

UPDATED: Just read this New York Times article, titled "A Turning Point in the Discourse, but in which Direction?" which I wanted to share. Betty Cracker also has a great post titled "What a leader would do" over on Rumproast, which I likewise recommend.

*Just so you all don't attack me for my comment (above), what I meant to say was that listening to the President describe the shooting was chilling, NOT that Obama was. But that yes, sometimes, such as in this case, where a nine-year-old girl was brutally slain, I miss former President Bill Clinton's more emotional response. Which is not to imply that a) Obama did a bad job at the press conference or b) that he's a bad President, which is how some people took my comment.

1 comment:

Lizzy said...

I am behind on your blogs, Jennifer, so I will get my feelings off my chest and the NRA can stuff it.

The bottom line is guns are too easily available. To anyone, anywhere. Yes, yes, I know about the "constitutional right to bear arms" (which btw was written at a time in history when a man had to protect his homestead). Yes, hunters, Sarah Palin, Congressmen -let them get their "special" gun permits after a thorough qualification period.

But for every other yahoo with a gun in their house for no good reason, handguns should be against the law. Period. That law should be enforced as vigorously as drunk driving laws or illegal drug laws. All cause senseless deaths because of stupidity and recklessness.

If guns were not so easily obtainable to anyone with a few dollars, many of these senseless massacres could be avoided. Not to mention accidents involving children who pick up Daddy's unlocked gun, think it's a toy and inadvertantly hurt/kill themselves or someone else.

Someone told me on New Year's Eve this year in Bed Sty at the stroke of midnight she heard (many) gunshots going off. I said, "are you sure it wasn't firecrackers?" She answered "no, this is what they do every NYE - shoot their guns into the sky - cheaper and easier than buying firecrackers."

Enough said.