Civil Political Discourse? Riiiight!

Oh yes, please, let’s adopt legislation outlawing the use of bullseyes on maps. And while we’re at it, let’s tone down the inflammatory rhetoric, shall we? Because that will help bring us all back to a golden time when discourse, even political discourse, was civil and dignified. Right?

So say goodbye to terms like riding shotgun, bullet points, killer apps, not by a long shot, whipping into shape, battleground states, targeting your opponent, in the crosshairs, death panels, campaign strategy, and whatever else you can imagine as potentially deadly invective which would contribute to a climate of hate.

Don’t you see? The world will be safer if we all if all you wingnut redneck gun-totin’ Bible-clingin’ inbred hillbilly stump-jumpers would just tone it down a bit.

Of course, the problem with that attitude is that our discourse has never been terribly civil, or for that matter, free from bluster, ferocity, and vehemence. As far back as the founding of our nation, Thomas Jefferson famously wrote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.” (And notice which group’s blood is mentioned first.)

Even today on shows as innocuous as the morning show “Fox and Friends”, NJ Governor Chris Christie was introduced in a segment with phrases like, “leading the charge” and “slash[ing] state budgets”.

Face it; our language–any language–is rife with turbulence. And because politics is so very personal, our political discourse is littered with fightin’ words, military metaphors, and just plain old violence. A quick look at a history of presidential campaign slogans (see? military term!) gives us the following:

  • 54″ 40″ or Fight
  • We Polked you in ’44, We shall Pierce you in ’52
  • Vote as You Shot
  • Tilden or Blood!
  • Rum, Romanism and Rebellion
  • Sunflowers die in November
  • Give ‘Em Hell, Harry

The world has, and probably always will have its share of crazy people and evil people; people who don’t require a reason to harm or maim or murder; and who aren’t set off by rhetoric of any kind. Like Jared Loughner, who as Ace at AOSHQ says:

“…The only thing I can rule out is that a “climate of hate” caused this– because I know for a fact, based on his writings and testimony of those who knew him, that he was not animated by right-wing politics at all…”

The violence inherent in language is part of life, and each of us learns how to deal with it in our own way. The very vast majority of us do just fine. That almost vanishingly small percentage who are truly evil or are hopelessly mentally ill are not swayed one way or the other by the language used around them. They are what they are, and society deals with them as best it can.

So don’t tell me what I can or can’t say, either in political discourse or in any conversation.

Them’s fightin’ words.

Stoutcat

About these ads

2 Responses to Civil Political Discourse? Riiiight!

  1. Sissy Willis says:

    It’s hard when you’re a utopianist who denies there’s such a thing as human nature: Krauthammer said it best:

    Because fighting and warfare are the most routine of political metaphors. And for obvious reasons. Historically speaking, all democratic politics is a sublimation of the ancient route to power – military conquest. That’s why the language persists. That’s why we say without any self-consciousness such things as “battleground states” or “targeting” opponents. Indeed, the very word for an electoral contest – “campaign” – is an appropriation from warfare.

    http://wapo.st/eOXkFG

  2. missy says:

    Until the country can explain to O’Donnell, Matthews.
    oberholtzer, Maddow and the like at MSNBC – we will
    never have decent debates. It is like they spend all
    their time trying to twist the words of decent
    legislators or commentators.
    Do you thinnk that their wives have difficulty with
    men/women this surley+

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 110 other followers