Divided. Mob mentality. Racist. Nazi. Socialist. Communist. Fascist. Un-American. Petty. Paranoid. The list goes on.
These words are usurping the health care and education debates in this country. These are words of anger, fed by the extremes on both sides who refuse to hear the voice of the opposition. These are the words of the neo-conservative and neo-liberal uprising. An uprising that appears to be outside the control.
I really wanted to leave the health care and education issues for another day. I wanted to leave discussions of the language of discontent in my classrooms and not this column. I cannot.
Donna Brazile, political commentator for ABC News and presidential campaign manager for former Vice President Al Gore, told George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” that she believed America is becoming a “culture of extremism.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a recent press conference that she fears that the language of hate will lead to the violence seen in San Francisco and other major cities in the United States during the 1960s and '70s.
Even my commentary of 9/11 was attacked with anger using language I cannot print here. I simply suggested that a better way of fighting terrorism is to properly fund and educate our children. It drew language that, in my opinion (and this is an opinion column) is uncivil and degrading to the discussion.
In a LinkedIn.com group called “Freethinkers,” this one article has generated almost 30 comments. Do not think that this is a liberal-humanist group. One member describes himself as “so far right, I'm left and John Birch is pink.” Now that is conservative. (You have to be registered with LinkedIn.com to read the comments.)
Another stated, without apology, “Kids do NOT need the best education available any more than I need to check into the Mayo Clinic when I get a splinter … Public education to me is pretty much public intellectual welfare.”
Excuse me? And what planet are you from?
Yet it is the same irrational attitude that is surrounding the health care debate.
In Missouri, 13 percent of our neighbors are without insurance, not including undocumented workers; 28 percent are insured under government “socialist” programs, like Medicare or Veterans Affairs; 54 percent of those insured receive their coverage from their employers and have little idea of the total costs.
We have witnessed or seen reports of protesters getting in the faces of their representatives or senators, screaming how it is unfair helping our fellow man and is somehow un-American. They screamed loud enough that several members of Congress had additional security during these town hall meetings.
The sounds of hate are emanating not only from the right. When Joe Wilson yelled “You lie” during the president’s speech to the joint session of Congress, many liberals, some who might be so far left that they are right and make Greenpeace look red, screamed “racism.”
The majority of opinion is that this was not an act of racism—inappropriate stupidity maybe, but not racism. Personally, I believe it was staged to provoke the continued partisan battles. That is not to say that racism and prejudice do not exist—it does, and I, myself, have been a target over the years.
I believe that Americans have lost much of our civility and humanity. I am deeply saddened hearing such words of hate and immorality. On April 4, 1968, Robert Kennedy gave a heartfelt eulogy for Martin Luther King Jr. to a primarily black audience in Indianapolis. His words should resonate today as they did 41 years ago.
"But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.
“Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.”
David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.