This weekend’s shooting in Arizona has led me to think about our society and what possibly could have led the disturbed young man responsible to commit such a crime. Ultimately, I find that today’s society lacks a certain sense of decorum and respect, especially among some of our political figures. Although I don’t believe that the responsibility for this crime falls on the shoulders of any given person (save, of course, the one who pulled the trigger), I do believe that this area of society deserves our scrutiny.
Any time you turn on the news, open a newspaper or do pretty much anything on the Internet, you will run across some political figure or group spewing hatred about those with opposing views. Whether this is Sarah Palin telling her followers to “reload” to take back the House of Representatives, or Maureen Dowd making a scathing remark about Bush-era administrators, or a Tea Partier carrying a picture of President Barack Obama dressed as a terrorist or Hitler, these images and messages abound in our culture. They come from all sides and parties, and seem to stem from the idea that ‘if the other guys do it, why can’t I?’
Today’s figureheads seem to have lost track of the golden rule, the one we all learn in kindergar- ten: Treat others as you would like to be treated. Ad hominem attacks and name-calling do nothing to further political discourse; rather, they spread discord and widen the existing chasm between certain groups in our society. Few are fond of hearing themselves or their political party referred to in a negative or disparaging light, yet we continue to make comments like that about political opposites. If these remarks don’t do anything to further discussion about the very real problems our country is facing, and they don’t do any other sort of good, why on earth do political figures keep making them? That’s actually a pretty easy question to answer.
Political vitriol, such as that spewed by Glenn Beck and, at times, Keith Olbermann, will attract more viewers and readers than sincere, unbiased political discourse. More viewers and readers mean more advertising revenue and bigger salaries for those at the network. We have let the figureheads of our political commentary drive our idea of political discourse into the ground. Obviously, political discourse will always be rather heated. One only needs to look at Preston Brooks, who beat Charles Sumner with a cane on the floor of the Senate in 1856, to see that. But I think that Saturday’s shooting should make us all take a step back and look at how we discuss politics.
The hateful remarks both parties make need to stop. They create problems, not solve them, and I simply do not believe that we are in a position right now to waste time bickering, when we have serious issues to correct.