In examining the short-lived new civility across America, its fairly clear that someone needs to buy every pundit, citizen and politician a mirror.
Following the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., new calls for a more civil dialogue began to emerge almost immediately. In President Barack Obamas speech in Arizona after the shooting, he called on Americans to speak in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.
I believe we can do better, the president was quoted in The Huffington Post. Those who died here, those who saved lives here â€” they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.
On the surface, the peak of the new civility movement came at the State of the Union address, when many Republicans and Democrats crossed the aisle to sit together. But even before the push for civility could take root, people from across the political spectrum were pulling it up within minutes of the shooting.
On Jan. 8, Markos Moulitsas, the founder and publisher of Daily Kos, became one of the first people to blame the attack on Sarah Palin. Others quickly followed, with former Rep. Alan Grayson, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and The New York Times joining in.
It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madmans act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members, The New York Times editorial claimed. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge.
Twitter users from around the world took to the social networking site and threatened to kill Palin after the shooting. A compilation of the Tweets is available on YouTube, but the material is explicit.
After the shooting, Jared Loughner was found to have been mentally unstable, kicked out of college for his bizarre behavior and obsessed with his target, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. According to The Christian Science Monitor, no information about his life suggested any ties to Sarah Palin or Republicans.
By the time this information came to light, the chance for civility had arguably come and gone. On Jan. 14, The Huffington Post reported that Eric Fuller, one of the people wounded in the Arizona shooting, blamed Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Sharron Angle for the violence.
Yet the next day, Fuller was arrested for threatening a tea party leader. During a town hall meeting, AOL News reports Fuller took a picture of Trent Humphries before yelling, Youre dead. If the Arizona shooting was supposed to help teach civility, it appeared that the lesson failed to sink in â€” even for those closest to the situation.
Although the idea of civility had been hyped in Washington, D.C., even before the shooting, it seemed someone forgot to tell the very people â€” of both parties â€” who were hyping it.
According to conservative speakers at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., Democrats are good at nastiness and feed the public a diet of defamation. President Obama is weak and a liar. Groups like ACORN, Code Pink and unions are hate-filled, racist sheep.
For anyone who thinks its easy to pick out the party affiliation of people based on their actions, think again.
When a MoveOn volunteer was stomped on at a rally outside a Kentucky Senatorial debate, who did the stomping?
The Huffington Post reports it was a Rand Paul (a Republican) supporter.
When a black man was called a racial slur and attacked at a 2009 town hall meeting in St. Louis, who did the attacking?
According to reporting in The Weekly Standard, members of SEIU â€” a union that supported Barack Obama in his run for the presidency â€” were responsible for the attack.
When a 65-year-old mans finger was bitten off during a clash between supporters and opponents of health care reform, who did the biting?
While incivility exists on many levels of discourse in the political spectrum, where anger and vitriol appears, other voices are stepping up to combat the rhetoric.
Politicalcivility.com, a site that explores the lines between meaningful debate and noise, says that civility is being put to the test in the unions vs. Republicans battle in Wisconsin. Citing a poster that equates Wisconsin governor Scott Walker with Adolf Hitler, the site says that to equate the legislative changes and benefit reductions with the man responsible for the death of millions is irresponsible, and it undermines the teachers position.
Common Cause, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, recently hosted a panel discussion in California. At the gathering, videographer Christian Hartsock captured interactions with rally-goers railing against Fox News, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
According to a Wall Street Journal transcription, the videos contain calls for Thomas to be impeached, put back in the fields, to have his toes cut off one by one and fed to him, or for him to be strung up. One woman, who said she was all about peace, said Thomas should be tortured.
The mainstream media, in their determination to cast the Tea Party movement as violent and racist, have frequently violated their own ethical principles, the article states. Wed venture to say that Hartsock has provided more evidence that Common Cause is a violent, racist movement than all the media put together have done vis--vis the Tea Party.
After black conservative radio host Herman Cain spoke at CPAC, Chauncey DeVega wrote in a blog at AlterNet.org that he found black garbage pail kids (crossed out) black conservatives fascinating not because of what they believe, but rather because of how they entertain and perform for their White Conservative masters.
According to The Washington Times, after DeVegas attack, Niger Innis, a spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality and an MSNBC commentator, as well as a number of conservative writers demanded an apology from DeVega. Elsewhere, Cynthia Tucker wrote on her Atlanta Journal Constitution blog that DeVegas attack was out of bounds.
I find that kind of criticism of black conservatives deeply offensive because it presumes that they are not entitled to think differently. Isnt that the essence of racism â€” the notion that all black folk must think and act alike? Dont racists make that very assumption? Tucker writes. Black men and women gave their lives in the civil rights movement so black folk like Herman Cain can applaud those right-wing principles if they choose.
In January, Mark DeMoss stopped his Civility Project initiative due to lack of interest, saying that only three members of Congress signed his civility pledge in 2010. So why isnt civility catching on?
Ive thought long and hard about the lack of interest among our leaders, DeMoss writes for Politico. I can only conclude: too many people equate civility in public life with unilateral disarmament.
With the country divided between Republicans and Democrats and vocal factions urging both parties to make that divide more noticeable, for many in both parties, unilateral disarmament is impossible. Sometimes compromising is even more so. However, politicians in both parties say, civility doesnt require people to surrender what they stand for and believe in.
We should always be examining how we speak to each other. And we should speak to each other civilly, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in an interview on Fox. But if speaking to someone civilly means not telling the truth, putting somewhat a varnish on what we say, that you cant tell where people really stand, Im not in favor of that ... I dont think disagreeing with someone is hateful unless you make it so.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said it was no secret that he is a convinced Democrat, and that nobody should go to the Senate and check their beliefs at the door.
But the truth is, some of the most fiercely independent, plain-talking, direct and determined partisans Ive ever known in the Senate have also been the ones who tackled the toughest issues finding common ground with people they disagreed with.
In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., agreed with this, saying that people should respect the sincerity of convictions that enliven debates but also the mutual purpose of Americans: a better, stronger and more prosperous country.
Our political discourse should be more civil than it currently is, and we all, myself included, bear some responsibility for it not being so, McCain writes. There are too many occasions when we lack that empathy and mutual respect on all sides of our politics, and in the media. But it is not beyond us to do better; to behave more modestly and courteously and respectfully toward one another; to make progress toward the ideal that beckons all humanity: to treat one another as we would want to be treated.