September 14, 2009

Uncivil rights?

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." »
Alexis Charles Henri Clrel de Tocqueville

A week ago I posted an essay about listening, particularly to all the public discourse around current affairs.

My essay was about the process, not the outcome. We do not yet know the outcome of the health insurance reform effort -- we need to encourage spirited public debate and listen to all sides of the complex issues.

When Joe Wilson shouted out "You Lie" during the President's speech to a joint session of Congress last week, I posted on my Facebook page that Wilson got his fifteen-minutes of fame.

I do not think Rep. Wilson was correct in shouting, despite his anger, and inability to control his emotions, as he explained that night. I think he was rude, and I am sorry that his outburst ate up most of the newstime the next day which should have been devoted to fixing our unsustainable and broken system.

But we are not Soviet Russia. We do not live in a country where Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina will be carted off to prison for expressing his opinion. And while I don't like what he did, I am glad that we live in a country where we can express our opinions.

Anyone who has watched "Question Time" of the House of Commons on the BBC knows this type of outburst is fairly common there.

Rep. Wilson will deal with his own consequences whatever they are. He is really no different than Serena Williams on the tennis court. Women athletes have certainly come a long way when they can be just as vile and obnoxious as John McEnroe once was on the courts.

Being rude is not a crime, but it can have consequences. On my first day in Journalism School, a professor who was a huge First Amendment champion reminded us of the comments numerous famous people have made about freedom of speech and freedom of the press. A quote from de Tocqueville begins this essay.

On another thought, I received more than 25 emails responding to my original essay. Here are some of the responses (identity protected!) Quoth the raven.

* Having grown up in a home of fairly rigid Republicans as a liberal independent, I learned early on how to listen well and state my position in a non-combative way. Most of my family didn't learn either of those lessons well, but they have served me well throughout most of my life. And as a testimony to that fact, I can say that I've lived the past xxxxxx years of my life in the conservative northern reaches of the Bible Belt and no one has shot me, beaten me to a pulp or spit on me because I happen to NOT be a conservative. A witness to tolerance on all fronts.

* Sounds like my family, too. When asked if she was a Republican or Democrat mother would always respond "Independent" but we all knew she never voted for anyone who was not a Democrat. She also told me that black, brown, yellow, green people were just exactly the same as us and we should treat them that way.

* AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! Thanks for your thoughts. Sounds a lot like the way I was raised. My child had to watch the speech at home. It sickens me to think parents are so poorly skilled at communication and so closed minded that they would refuse to allow their children to hear the President speak! What is this country becoming?

* Sound, thoughtful, and reasonable thinking. some day i hope that defines an American.

* I think one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to be afraid of ideas. It's one of the things that bothers me most about the "the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it' mindset. Don't think, don't debate, don't explore - be afraid. See evil everywhere. Huge mistake.

* I didn't listen to the Obama speech. Despite my media based career, I avoid all things political.

* Now to your blog about your family and differing political views. You were obviously making an oblique comment on the President's speech to schoolchildren. Why oblique? Why not finish it with a from-the-gut paragraph about parents who wouldn't let their children see the telecast?

You had the perfect chance to let the bastards have it and you equivocated. I wish you had used your platform differently.

* You articulate your memories and your purpose so very well.

* Thank you for this. I have been outraged by this disrespect for the office of President of the United States. I even called the local CBS station last week because they kept showing this one parent on their newcasts using language like “socialist” and “Marxist”.

* The healthcare initiative is so that people who get shot will have access to health care, get better, and live another day to shoot someone else, who will then have access to health care, etc. The great cycle of guns and health care. Yahoo.

* Whoever said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" had no idea what he was talking about.

Keep 'em coming.