Have we transformed into so brittle a citizenry that we are unable to handle a raucous debate over the future of the country? If things were quiet, subdued and "civil" in America today, as Pelosi surely wishes, it would only be proof that democracy wasn't working. (Please read the whole article.)Sure, Pelosi wishes that everyone would behave already, but it is also often conservatives and others arguing over the proper way of dissenting rather than just dissenting already. There seems to be a practical meltdown in areas of the conservative blogosphere over comportment... the theory seeming to be that passion is off-putting to the all-important center. In order to win, therefore, we need to be bland.
Frankly, I think that other than those in power who would rather not be bothered by opposition, it's only people without ideas who are arguing over civility. The Tea Party protesters aren't spending all of their time trying to police their fellows. They've got a simple message of economic responsibility for the government that applies to the stimulous bill, the bail-outs and government buy-outs, and now health care. It's all the same message at heart: Don't spend money you don't have, and especially don't spend my money. A second, very simple message applied to each situation is that government is passing bills they haven't read that will have consequences they haven't considered. Or more succinctly put: Read the bill!
Those are powerful ideas.
But don't the pictures of Joker Obama or Hitler Obama or Witchdoctor Obama take away from that? Yes, maybe a little, or even a lot. But what is the alternative? Decorum?
Well behaved women seldom make History. This is also true for men, of course. People who censor their own behavior for fear of offending someone else never accomplish much of anything. And frankly, some people would like it that way. Freedom is rough and tumble. Free Speech is often raucous. Speak your truth even if your knees shake? Do people really mean that?
Yes but... Witchdoctor Obama?
Can we accept that people do and will do unhelpful things either from an excess of zeal, a tin ear, or even racism, and that they have a right to express themselves, and also that spending our time policing others for what they have a constitutional right to do is just as UN-helpful as whatever behavior we, ourselves, find goes over our own personal line? By all means, if appropriate, push back when someone is expressing something with which you disagree, but don't mistake for a moment that your right to speak is dependent on how well anyone else behaves him or herself.
There is no prerequisite on your right to speak, dissent, demonstrate or carry a poster.
There are a lot of people, today, who are trying to shame others into silence. For one reason for another; for some fantasy of a more civil past, for some notion that well-behaved people get more attention, for reasons that they don't want to be sullied by the unwashed masses, or because they'd just rather not have to acknowledge the opposition.
But really... who woke up one morning and made them Jell-o Sheriff? Huh?
I think my favorite at the moment is the argument that uncivil behavior toward the President or our fellow man isn't free speech but is a Civil Rights Violation.