Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Polite Discourse and American Politics: Irreconcilable Differences?

In my weekly screening of media pundits, wonks, hacks and other stooges who draw a salary for giving us their opinions, I often run across the same old tired partisan anger. It is truly refreshing to see someone addressing what I think is the beginning of true change in American politics (and possibly the reinvigoration of the American public for politics). I am speaking, naturally, of the lack of civility in debate on politics.

I was pleased to run across this great piece by columnist John Leo.

He doesn't argue that there should not be debate over issues of public interest. Far from it, Leo calls on both the left, right and otherwise to rise to the occasion and make their voices heard. What he (and I) takes issue with is the low manner in which much of this takes place. In many cases, ad hominem attack is hardly the word. It is much easier to spew violence against those with whom you disagree, wether public or in your own life. I know because I often feel like just swearing at people and hoping they take a swing at me. What is harder (and better) is to understand the arguments of others, consider them carefully and issue forth with a metered and well-versed argument. I, on somewhat of a different note, believe that this should be the cornerstone of education, but one issue at a time (clarity, always clarity!)

Informed and deep discussion of issues of import should be the great light and pride of a free people. If we do any less, we will not be true to the great legacy of free and open speech. It is unfortunate that just because speech is free does not mean that it is intelligent or well-informed. These are the factors we must confront as a by-product of living in a (relatively) free society. If we do not take full advantage of this right and put forth our best and highest faculties in its pursuit, we will deserve the repression and coercion that will surely follow.

Is this overly optimistic? Perhaps. I must believe in it, though. If I did not, I would surely become utterly hopeless and descend into the nihilistic funk that seems to permeate the postmodern condition. Yesterday, I spoke of faith and personal belief. This happens to be one of mine.

Duum spiro spero.

1 comment:

Aaron Cynic said...

Not overly optamistic at all I think. It's a hope that I definately share. However as long as advertisers are in control of radio and television, you'll never see much of intelligent discourse. Discussions that take longer than a few minutes that aren't violent yelling matches just don't get ratings.

I think this is all part of a downward sprial. First, most intelligent discourse is thrown to the wind. People who spend the majority of their time soaking in the angry punditry internalize and spew it back out. So on and so on until we're reduced to simple "you're right I'm wrong let's fight" discussions. I'll bet we can turn that into a sweet reality show.