Let’s end the un-civil war of language
By Edward Emanuel
The Fresno Bee
(Updated Saturday, September 24, 2005, 6:52 AM)
I’m a professor at California State University, Fresno. From day to day, I’m in contact with the future leaders of America, and I must tell you that I’m in a state of shock. What our children are learning is how to express themselves with venom, innuendo, insult and personal character assassination. And where are our future leaders, our future politicians, our future teachers learning this vile and perverted form of communication? From us.
Politics, partisanship, power over decorum and gossip over truth are what stands for discourse today. It is shameful. There is so much hate between the two political parties that it has placed the interests of America behind personal attack. Our Founding Fathers frowned upon the concept of professional politicians because, in their wisdom, they knew that the profession of politics was detrimental to the good of the country.
How right they were. No longer do our political parties represent the needs of the constituents but rather the needs of the parties themselves, which are so counterproductive to the good of the nation. It is the pursuit of political power at any cost that is at the root of these bitter attacks on the elected officials who are in power. And so many of these vicious attacks on each party are funded by organizations within and around the parties themselves, which raise millions and millions of dollars to spread their negativism through the media.
Donate the cash
Think for a minute: If the two major political parties took the hundreds of millions of dollars that they use to attack each other and donated that money to charity, scientific research to end harmful diseases or to education, what wonderful work could be accomplished, rather than the banal disregard for courtesy and good conduct that this money now creates?
This country was founded on the principles of free speech and honest criticism. But when honest criticism sinks to the level of personal attack and insult, we all lose a bit of our freedom. When the “loyal opposition,” no matter which party falls into that category, becomes only continual and vitriolic “opposition,” then it must make the Founding Fathers roll in their graves.
Personal attacks on the character, intelligence and morality of the president, no matter which party the president represents, send a signal to our children that there is nothing in this culture that need be respected. When a leader from one party appears before a group of children and calls the president of the United States a “loser,” then this is not freedom of speech; it is license to destroy the dignity of the office.
I was in a state of shock when, in the middle of the Gulf Coast’s great tragedy, I heard politicians and celebrities blasting our national leaders with charges of racism and planned inhumanity. How horrible to share those misguided and utterly banal attacks when our thoughts and allegiance should only be focused on helping those poor victims in New Orleans, Alabama and Mississippi. Where is the sense of decorum? Where is the patriotism that argues, “put America first”? America must come first.
There is no question that there was ineptness displayed in this national tragedy. And charges ought to be leveled at those who were guilty. But it is obscene to announce to the world, and more important, to our children, in the middle of a crisis, that our national conscience is immoral and weak.
If both of the two major political parties would only stop this unrelenting trading of insults and get off the path of personal vendetta, then we would be giving our children a priceless gift. If we could stop referring to ourselves as “red states” and “blue states” and only speak of America as one nation dedicated to securing the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, then this nation would be united in such a way that no outside enemy in the world could ever destroy our will and our culture. Let us teach our children how to argue a point without stooping to insult and personal character destruction. Let us teach our children that dissent is good as long as it is civil and based on facts, not lies, forgeries and innuendo.
America is the greatest nation on earth, and the only way we can preserve our greatness is through respect for the truth, love for our fellow citizens and the preservation of political civility and decorum.
Edward EmanuEl is a professor in the Theatre Arts Department at California State University, Fresno.