About That Call for Civility in Political Discourse

There are some statements made by politicians and political activists that I hesitate to comment on, particularly when they are distasteful and/or include wording I wouldn’t ordinarily want to highlight in a blog devoted to Biblical principles. Yet there are times when I feel somewhat forced to say something. This is one of those times.

Two recent rants come readily to mind. The first emanated from Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California. In a speech just over two weeks ago, she railed against the Tea Party. Her precise words?

As far as I’m concerned, the Tea Party can to straight to hell.

Well, the positive side, I guess, is that she at least believes there is such a place. Or am I giving her too much credit for simply using typically inflamed rhetoric?

Civility is breaking out all over the place. Indiana congressman Andre Carson, about a week after Waters’s outburst, did his best to leave her heated rhetoric in the dust with the following analysis:

Some of these folks in Congress would love to see us [African Americans] as second-class citizens. Some of them in Congress right now of this Tea Party movement would love to see you and me . . . hanging on a tree.

This was a broadbrush swipe at a movement whose primary goal is to call the nation back to financial common sense. I’ve been around the Tea Party. I’ve spoken to these groups. Nothing I have ever seen or heard from them smacks of the least bit of racism. Yet when called upon to reflect on his statement and to consider whether he had gone too far, he said he would not take back his words.

Then there was Teamsters president James Hoffa, at a Labor Day rally where President Obama took the stage moments after Hoffa said the following about Tea Party/Republican members of Congress:

Let’s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong.

I have to give credit to a political commentator in the Los Angeles Times who responded in this way:

Let’s assume for a moment, that the son of the still-missing Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa, who was taken out somewhere once never to reappear, was not suggesting the enthusiastic union crowd start dating tea party members. The living Hoffa’s statement doesn’t seem to quite fit Democrat Obama’s past pleas for and promises of a new civility in the nation’s political discourse.

Does anyone recall the feigned outrage over Sarah Palin’s map of America that showed certain districts “targeted” in the 2010 congressional elections. Does anyone recall how she was unjustly blamed for the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson last January? And finally, do we remember all the pious calls for civil discourse pouring from the lips of Democrat politicians? Well, I never took them seriously from the start. And now their hypocrisy is clearly revealed for all to see.

It is not hate speech to disagree publicly with this president’s policies. It is hate speech to tell one’s political opponents to go to hell, to threaten to take them out while using vulgarities to describe them, and to accuse them of wanting to lynch a race of people when there is no evidence of any such desire.

I agree with a call to civility in political discourse. But it can’t be one-sided. Both sides have to adhere to it.