Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Civil Discourse

Regardless of my agreement for or against the opinions Sandra Fluke expressed before Congress, no woman who sits before Congress or any other body of our elected representatives to express her opinions should be demeaned or demonized for doing so. To demonize or demean a private individual for expressing their views in a civil manner devalues the constitutional right for all to express our views in a civil manner. To viciously attack such a person, regardless of their opinion, serves as an effort to silence that person or others for speaking views with which others may disagree strongly.

Let us take stock of our character in our dealing with those who differ from us, who express views that are well removed from our own. If we seek to silence views contrary to ours we are functionally saying two things. First, it says our views are not strong enough to withstand critiquing and the expression of contrary views, a sad commentary on our views. Second, it says that this nation is not strong enough to withstand vigorous debate and the exchanging of viewpoints, a sad commentary on the state of the nation and our support of free speech.

Yesterday and today I have heard statements that the withdrawal of advertisers from buying ads on Rush Limbaugh’s shows is an effort to silence him and is an attack on free speech. To frame the issue in such terms is fallacious. The issue is what is appropriate language and imagery to describe a young woman or any woman on the public airwaves.

If Fluke had used derogatory demeaning statements before Congress, we the public would have the right to criticize her for doing so, for being disrespectful of the institution and its citizens. Limbaugh, like Fluke, has a right to express his opinion. Sticking to the issue, critique the ideas she ventured and her reasoning is most appropriate. It is another thing to belittle her in such a disrespectful demeaning manner, particularly of a non-public figure.

Would I want my wife, mother, sister, daughter (if I had one), or a future grand-daughter, or my colleagues at work, demeaned and demonized for expressing their opinions? Absolutely not! The public is speaking soundly and rightly that calling her what she was called is inappropriate and should not be part of civil discourse. The attacks upon Limbaugh are about his language and civil discourse. It is that simple.

Though he is a significant voice in the party, Limbaugh is not the Republican Party. That said, what is most regrettable is presidential candidates and many other chief party officials muted and watered down comments. Their statements come across as pandering to the public, to say something without offending Limbaugh which only reinforces that impression that he is the high priest of the Republican Party who like a grand shaman must not be offended least he call down upon you ill or even worse, political death…and no person should ever have such power in our political system. That said, the general public is speaking and to its detriment the Republicans have lost the high ground on this issue.

A March Contrast

Before Evie and I stepped of the aircraft in Winnipeg this past Friday afternoon I remarked that it was the first time I had seen snow on the ground in the second week of March since 1996. Spending a few days in Winnipeg brought into a greater relief that spring has arrived in the Washington DC/northern Virginia area. Here are just some differences I am noting.

In the DC area, the crews and sculls have been out on the Potomac for more than three weeks whereas in Winnipeg there is no open water on rivers or lakes evidenced.

In the DC area, the grass is starting to green whereas in Winnipeg the grass still rests under a good layer of snow that is only now starting to melt.

In the DC area, a fill of a car’s washer fluid will last you well into the summer whereas in Winnipeg you still keep a bottle in your trunk for a weekly refill.

In the DC area, street sweepers and roadside garbage collection is well underway whereas in Winnipeg, thick layers of sand cover the roads, and side streets continue to be snow roads.

In the DC area, people are walking the streets without winter coats and even in shorts, whereas in Winnipeg winter coats, hats and gloves are still required for venturing outside for more than ten minutes.

In DC our dogs are quickly shedding their winter coats and eager to sit outside whereas in Winnipeg they would still be doing their business and rushing to get back inside.

In DC the first trees and bushes coming into flower, and the daffodils are up whereas in Winnipeg the trees and bushes are not close to stirring.

In the DC area, ball field fences are being inspected with lights have been turned on at night to test and allow the community use the fields whereas in Winnipeg, community center fields still have snow from the ice arena dumped onto them.

In the DC area, the tourist lines are getting longer whereas in Winnipeg the tourist animal is still hard to find.

In the DC area we are seeing fishing boats, and small yachts that have been pulled from winter storage being hauled to the rivers and their summer docks, and RVs are being inspected for spring and summer trips where as in Winnipeg boats and RVs are still nestled under their tarps.

In the DC area, language has shifted from talking of a week’s trip south as a winter escape to a spring beach trip whereas in Winnipeg they still speak of their trip as escaping winter for a week.

In the DC area cars are getting a good cleaning inside and out whereas in Winnipeg the cleaning inside and out of cursory as sand will still be back inside and in the car will be covered in salt after fifteen minutes on the road.

Evie is now driving with her sunroof open most days and we are now seeing people driving convertables often having their tops down whereas in Winnipeg, there are few convertables around town even in summer.

In the DC area exterior seasonal lights are long removed whereas in Winnipeg, most homes still have them up, albeit not turned on at night.

In DC we also know spring has arrived when the bracketology game is underway and people are starting to talk about how the Nats will look this year.

The list is just some of what could be noted. The full force of spring is still four or so weeks away in Winnipeg while in the Washington DC area it has been is well underway for more than a week. While Evie and i do not miss the long winters, we remember our seven years there with deep fondness. Like Iowa City and St. Mary’s ON, Winnipeg is still held warmly is a place we love in many ways and regretted leaving.