A year ago, Congressman Joe Wilson* created a modern milestone of incivility by calling President Obama a liar during the State of the Union address.
The comment engendered a spasm of media-stimulated reflection about civility. Sadly, this did not discourage political activists on both sides of the aisle from using vicious language to characterize people and policies they disagree with.
Lots of nastiness came from a contingent of angry and rude protestors under the banner of the Tea party movement. This evoked equally toxic counterattacks from liberals, including blaming the shootings in Tucson on hateful rhetoric.
President Obama made an impressive, statesmanlike speech absolving Tea Partiers for the shooting and calling for political adversaries to build bridges rather than walls. Senator McCain responded in the same spirit, saying, “I disagree with many of the president’s policies, but I believe he is a patriot sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country’s cause.”
But pollution of public discourse doesn’t stop simply because it should.
Last week, a Republican Governor from Maine publicly told the NCAAP, “Kiss my butt,” while a Democratic Congressman likened Republican opponents on healthcare to Nazis. Yikes!
This unnecessarily offensive language is counterproductive and self-perpetuating.
We deserve and we ought to demand a higher level of professionalism.
Candor does not preclude courtesy, and passion does not excuse impoliteness.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.