The new call for civility by President Obama, who waged a throughly uncivil and demeaning 2010 campaign against Republicans, is now becoming the new White House brand.
It seems Michelle is joining in, counseling all of us to use the Tucson shootings as a touchstone for changing our behavior, being nice to each other, and offering out children “some valuable lessons.” Here is a quote from an “An open letter to parents following the tragedy in Tucson,” which she produced yesterday
As parents, an event like this hits home especially hard. It makes our hearts ache for those who lost loved ones. It makes us want to hug our own families a little tighter. And it makes us think about what an event like this says about the world we live in – and the world in which our children will grow up.
We can teach our children that here in America, we embrace each other, and support each other, in times of crisis. And we can help them do that in their own small way – whether it’s by sending a letter, or saying a prayer, or just keeping the victims and their families in their thoughts.
We can teach them the value of tolerance – the practice of assuming the best, rather than the worst, about those around us. We can teach them to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly those with whom they disagree.
We can also teach our children about the tremendous sacrifices made by the men and women who serve our country and by their families. We can explain to them that although we might not always agree with those who represent us, anyone who enters public life does so because they love their country and want to serve it.
These lessons in civility are all a little much from the man who told Hispanics to vote against their “enemies” and the woman who became proud of her country in 2008.
I hope the lecturing is going to stop. “Anyone who enters public life” does so for a variety of reasons. Service may be one, a quest for power another. I don’t know about you, but I’m not training my children to trust politicians. I want them to be respectful, but with a healthy dose of skepticism.
This nation is a raucous bunch who like to argue, and sometimes feelings get hurt. We shouldn’t threaten each other, we should try not to take it way too far, but I’m not for neutering debate. We should be passionate, clever, and lob a few stinging barbs at out opponents.
In some ways, our debate is too polite. Just find some video, if you will, of the House of Commons, with its witty back and forth, and compare it to the droning and pontificating in our House of Representatives.
Conservatives dominate talk radio and are probably more prevalent on the blogs, where the toughest rhetoric comes into play. My grave concern is that the new “civility” is a stalking horse for shutting up the right. Conservatives are not naturally more stinging the liberals. But they have been more aggressive about getting into media that are forums for assailing the platitudes of the polite.
So what fits with the new civility? PBS. What doesn’t? Rush Limbaugh.
So let’s leave speech alone, and not use these horrible events to start a national lecture that could be used to clip the right wing.