Saturday, January 8, 2011

Message to a media superstar

"Sou le Chapeau" (Under the hat) - bronze sculpture by Andras Lapis, outside the Institut Hongrois, Rue Bonaparte, 6eme, Paris, France

You're a charismatic personality, and in this super-charged political atmosphere you've gained a lot of admirers and followers.

You've got a talent and a reputation for being a hard-hitter, for "telling it like it is" and you made your splash on the national scene in a role that's designed to be the "pit bull." With lipstick.

In a recent election, you amped up the rhetoric and went over the top to make a point and help your side gain the advantage. You appealed to the emotions and anger of your followers by using imagery and language that....barely...fell short of calling for violence against the opponents of your side.

Hey, we all know politics is theatre, right? Anyone in their right mind would know that you didn't really mean someone should actually kill your opponents, right? Doesn't everyone understand what a metaphor is? Aren't we all adults here? And if some nut-case takes it the wrong way, that's hardly your fault, is it?

OK. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. You are not responsible for some nut-case killing 6 people in Arizona.

But 9 year old Christina Taylor Green is dead.

So here's what I hope to see from you now.

I want to see you take responsibility for the position of leadership you have built for yourself. People listen to you. I want you to help steer our public discourse back to civility.

Do you think it's a good idea to get people so fired up they want to kill other people over federal policy about health insurance, or regulating the banking industry?

I want you to speak out against the demonization of American public servants by people who do so for the purposes of entertainment.

I want you to stop dumping on every little thing the people you oppose do - from their choice of footwear to their hobbies to the philanthropic causes their family members embrace.

I want you to stop pretending that minuscule differences of policy mean freedom versus tyranny.

I want you to stop casting mainstream public policies as the ultimate evil, just because they're favored - this year - by someone you don't like (as opposed to an earlier time when they were favored by someone you do like).

Can you do that? Can you take this unspeakable tragedy and - without accepting blame for it, no I am not putting that on you - can you take this and do something to stop the escalation of ugliness? People listen to you. They take your lead. Can you do something to help America heal?

To return us to civility and respect?

So far, what I've heard from you is a cautious statement, notable only for its blandness and non-specificity. That's fine - we should all wait until we know more about what happened before we run off at the mouth.

But America will hear what you have to say in the following days. You have the opportunity to show your true character - and we, thank God, have the opportunity to see it.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, you're counting on levels of intelligence, honesty, and self-knowledge that probably don't exist. Not that you're wrong to try...

Jackie Owens said...

I think we have a right to expect at least that much - a move by all politicians, and (even more unlikely) political pundits, away from divisive, uncivil discourse toward productive civil discussion. Some people will follow this and some will not; but those who do not, who still espouse violence, will be much more easily discerned. A return to actual civil discussions could also have another effect - bipartison progress on issues because people are actively listening to and proposing solutions.

Okay, that may be too much of a dream ...

It is even more ironic that Giffords is a more "moderate", centrist politician - the kind needed in both parties to make progress ...

Thanks, G, for a well-reasoned response to a completelhy unreasonable incident.

Anonymous said...


The Rally for Sanity was one day where civility seemed to be the rule rather than the exception. Then came the elections a few days later and vitriol and rhetoric returned en force. I cannot express how sad I am, but I tried to give an answer in on my blog.

Hamish Mack said...

Well said Aunt Snow. I don't think she will change one bit, though. It would need too much introspection from her.