Free speech, demagoguery and political discourse

Mona Hill
Staff Writer

I listened to Sarah Palin talk about the Arizona murders and attempted murders and, for the first time ever, found myself agreeing with her — kind of.

She’s right when she says responsibility for the shooting allegedly rests with Jared Loughner.

However, I also believe she’s being disingenuous when she says demagoguery (well, she didn’t use that term) doesn’t incite whackos.

I’ve long held the Sarah Palins and Michael Moores of the Western world are dangerous: They pander to the fears of the ignorant and uninformed in the same way the Nazis demonized Jews and radical Muslim jihadists demonize the United States.

McCarthyism became McCarthyism because of demagoguery; it ended because people began to talk about the emperor’s lack of clothing. It’s time to point out the naked in American political discourse.

It’s OK to disagree with another’s politics, but thoughtful discussion of the merits of her position is required. For instance, I don’t think much of nationalized health care because I’ve seen it in action.

Instead of giving everyone insurance and in some cases subsidizing it, why not cap the ever-increasing costs? Can someone explain to me why top-notch health care in Costa Rica costs a fraction of the same care in the United States?

Now that is reasonable political debate.

Labeling some politico a tax-and-spend commie pinko liberal or a knee-jerk, right-of-John-Birch reactionary is not intelligent argument.

The reason Congress and state legislators are stalemated is that, as individuals, they are afraid to be seen treating with the enemy — the enemy is defined as anyone who doesn’t think the same way “we” do.

We face difficult problems —unemployment, poverty, infrastructure to name a few — that require discussion, negotiation and compromise to arrive at solutions. There is no magic wand or money tree.

Where Sarah Palin and I part company is at her consistent refusal to consider any option but her own. She’s been on the campaign trail since John McCain was fool enough to tap her as his running mate.

She’s uttered some astounding stupidities and is astonishingly ill informed on even the most basic concepts of foreign policy, economics and civil rights.

Not to be one-sided: Michael Moore has demonized corporate America, U.S. healthcare, Dubya and the NRA in his assorted “documentaries.” I prefer to think of them as cinematic editorials, not because he shows up Bush and NRA members. He’s entitled to think the entire bunch are idiots.

My problem with Mikey is that he constructs his movies to support his rhetoric, rather than document the situation.

Case in point: Moore investigated the gun cultures in Canada and the United States. Canadians have about the same number of weapons per capita as Americans.

However, gun-related crimes in America far outstrip similar crimes in Canada. Moore’s conclusion? Blame the NRA and the fear-mongering national media. That surely is a hasty generalization.

Mikey likes his right to free speech but apparently thinks we can do away with other inconvenient and problematic rights, such as the right to bear arms.

Do I need a fully automatic assault rifle? Do I have any business owning one? The answer to both questions is no. I believe we can have sensible gun control. Let’s face it: The guys with AK-47s aren’t always the good guys.

The First Amendment allows all of us to say exactly what we want, ill-advised or not. It doesn’t require us to be politically correct, gender-neutral, accurate or to avoid hateful rhetoric.

On the other hand, common human decency demands that we be thoughtful and respectful in our debate. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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