Lois M. Collins: Rude, inflammatory political chatter a harmful sign of the times
Charles Dharapak, AP
Ted Nugent recently made headlines with an ill-considered, extraordinarily rude declaration that President Barack Obama is a "subhuman mongrel." It created enough stir that he felt obligated to issue a somewhat tepid apology for his choice of words.
Normally, I'd say who cares what a rocker thinks about the president. I'm no more influenced by Nugent's disdain for Obama than I was for actor Alec Baldwin's "hint" that he'd have to leave America if George Bush was elected in 2000. It's pretty clear that melodramatic, rude and petty behavior plays out on both sides of party politics.
Quite honestly, I couldn't care less whether folks who throw such terms around love or hate the president. But I'm willing to bet every single one who engages in such an over-the-top display also claims to love America. And I find that pretty ironic, because I honestly believe that such nastiness jettisons everything that's good about this country and harms how people in other countries view us.
The lack of respect that is a regrettable part of everyday political chatter these days undermines the traits that strengthen a country — traits like dignity and decency and even basic intelligence. It throws cooperation and the exchange of ideas into a barrel, tosses in some wet cement and heaves it into the ocean.
I'd be willing to bet that those who hate America love to see us engage in that level of discussion.
It's also pervasive. On any given day, I trip over "wanted" posters for this politician or that — again, both liberals and conservatives are doing it. I saw one today that declared Obama was wanted for "treason."
It sounds clever and certainly is eye-catchingly inflammatory. But what does it actually mean? Has he done something that is treasonous — and if he has, why has no one called him on it in an official way? Why are the media and opposite-party politicians ignoring it? Why is the only "action" being taken by a poster maker?
Here's the thing. We have real problems in America. Unemployment's not as high as it was, but there are still tons of people looking for jobs — and a growing number who have simply given up. There's an ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots and the middle class appears on the brink of disappearing into it forever. Marriage is now less likely throughout the middle and lower classes, despite the proven benefits, so children are vulnerable in families that are increasingly fragile.
Our schools are struggling to find adequate funding and to educate children to compete on an international level. Our senior citizens are struggling to make ends meet, folks aren't preparing adequately for retirement and young adults aren't all finding the opportunities they need to even launch.
The list goes on. These are actual problems and none of the fault for any of it can be laid solely on one party or another, although I think some serious blame could be laid on our national inability to work across the aisle to cooperate and find solutions.
If you have that much disrespect for the office of the president, how much consideration do you show police or firemen or even just your neighbor?
Progress and solutions come with an atmosphere that fosters cooperation and the exchange of ideas. The saddest part is, some of my favorite people — friends I know are intelligent and caring — seem drawn into this meaningless form of activism.
I believe that our public discourse is in desperate need of a makeover. It could use a bath and a more appealing package. It's time to act like grown-ups. Then, maybe we can get something done.
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