Friday, August 19, 2011

Civil Discourse or Incitement

Senator Edward Kennedy
After the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy last year, I reflected on the eulogies by his political allies and foes alike. All were very gracious and civil, unlike much public discourse these days. I recalled that when I was a boy, soaring oratory in the U.S. Senate was the rule, not an anachronism subject to ridicule. I listened with great pleasure to the mellifluous voice and florid language of Senator Everett Dirksen. I disagreed with everything he said, but listening to him speak still made the hair on my neck stand up. Later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke words that yet bring tears to my eyes and a wondrous mix of sadness and joy to my heart.

Whether the practiced civility of those long-gone days or the lionizing eulogies of Senator Kennedy by political opponents were genuine or not isn't important. What is important is publicly according other people, especially those with whom we disagree, civility and respect. It costs nothing, makes social intercourse more pleasant, and facilitates the political process.

The alternative is to risk incitement of troubled individuals to act out tragically believing the extreme rhetoric they hear somehow validates their abhorrent behavior. Along with freedom of speech comes the duty to exercise that right responsibly. This is a lesson that today's hyper-partisan politicians and news personalities would do well to remember, lest they earn some measure of culpability for horrific acts of violence.

submit to reddit Share on Tumblr

No comments:

Post a Comment