Public debates should be civil, open-minded

Published 9:52 am Thursday, August 20, 2009

“A mob is a society of bodies voluntarily bereaving themselves of reason and traversing its work. The mob is man voluntarily descending to the nature of the beast” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Over the past month we have witnessed what seemed to be a peaceful demonstration transform into an unruly, violent display of discontent.

Of course what I am referring to is the current “debate” on health care reform. And I feel it is very appropriate to put quotations around the word “debate,” due to the opposition’s refusal of having one.

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Now I know, that every single America has the God given right to agree or disagree with this legislation. That is the wonderful thing about being American. However, disagreement does not, or should not result in life-threats or fear based propaganda.

The “debate” on healthcare reform, has created a lost sense of security for congressmen and women all across the United States, and ungrounded, unnecessary fear in the hearts of her citizens. A person arriving to a town hall meeting with a loaded weapon strapped to his leg is not a healthy debate.

Painting swastikas on the signs of a congressman office building is not a healthy debate, nor is hanging a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in effigy a healthy debate.

But conservatives respond saying that liberals didn’t care when Sarah Palin was hung in effigy on the Halloween of 2008. While in fact, the Mayor of West Hollywood (where the effigy was hung), who is a Democrat made this statement, “I respect that we all have the right to freedom of speech.”

However, with that right comes responsibility.

While these residents have the legal right to display Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin in effigy, I strongly oppose political speech that references violence — real or perceived.

So while a liberal speaks out against an effigy portraying a conservative figure, not only are the republicans refusing to speak against this kind of behavior, they are endorsing it. Rather than trying to calm the beast, they are fueling the fires of violence and fear among average Americans.

So while Bill O’Reilly will call anti-war protesters “Nazis” and “unpatriotic,” his colleague Glenn Beck can televise a bit where he kills House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by poisoning her wine. This isn’t fun and games; this isn’t a joke. Real danger is haunting the lives of real people.

Vulnerable Americans are being misled by fake grassroots protesters who are getting paid off by big drug companies, who will be hurt by this legislation because they will be forced to lower prices for the same average Americans who are shouting against it.

This is the confusion that is being planted in town halls all across the country.

But we must remember in this bewildering time, with the power hungry politicians and rating obsessed talk show hosts excluded; no party member whether they are Democrat or Republican, public servant or citizen, has ill will against America.

Neither wishes to see the destruction of this country, nor the pureness of its values. Our two main political parties represent certain ideologies, not to hurt the public, but what they truly believe will help the public.

Yes, sometimes ideas succeed and fail on both sides, but the motive is always the same, to further the progression of the American journey.

So I ask all who are reading, not to look at the opposite party as evil or untrustworthy. But as fellow-citizens who enjoy the right to put their faith in the ideals in which feel are true.

So let’s continue our American journey, recognizing the beliefs of others, and approaching debate with an open mind and an understanding heart.

Because that philosophy, that has been passed down by our forefathers over 225 years, is what makes America truly great.

Tony Burge, Ironton