LOS ANGELES, December 19, 2012—At a Sunday night eulogy for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama called for a “national conversation.” Skeptics dismissed this as a feel-good gesture with no serious policy impact. People even disagree whether failure to enact policies is negative or positive. Sometimes status quo is the best of terrible options, and sometimes “change” means “worse.”
Yet a much deeper problem, if not fixed, will doom any discussion. What has to change is the tone.
A tiny slice of fringe lunatics not representing mainstream conservatives still believe President Obama is a Muslim and a Kenyan. They see his presidency as illegitimate, as many Democrats did with his predecessor. President Obama is a Hawaiian born Christian. Like George W. Bush, he is sometimes wrong, but not evil. Until people reserve words like “evil” for people like Hitler and Stalin, conversation is impossible.
Liberals are much worse behaviorally. While conservative “wingnuts” are marginalized, liberal wingnuts are encouraged (Many liberals see all conservatives as wingnuts, again making conversation impossible). The conservative wingnuts are private citizens. The liberal ones are in government. Naming names does no good, but referring to Republicans and conservatives as racists, sexists, bigots, homophobes, and hostage-takers must stop.
President Obama spoke magnificently after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot. He called for civility, yet failed to lead by example, often acting in a most uncivil manner. When spokespeople referred to Mitt Romney as a liar, felon, and murderer, Obama remained silent. Obama never had a “Sister Souljah” moment where he condemned liberal hate speech. An innocent man named Clinton Tarver had his hot dog truck terrorized by liberal union bullies. President Obama said nothing.
Tone matters. Passion does not justify verbal or physical violence. President Obama was eloquent in Connecticut. He said many of the right words. Now he must mean them. He cannot allow political passion to justify incivility .
Obama frequently demonizes people who disagree with him. He uses words toward opponents that should be reserved for enemies. Claiming that an American politico is an enemy of America coarsens society.
President Obama is not a subversive. He is a loving husband and father with liberal policies. Conservatives disagree with him ideologically and philosophically. He is wrong, not evil.
If President Obama read my liberal hate mail, he would understand what rips America to shreds. One liberal commenter expressed anger at my opposition to gun control. This individual represents too many liberals. He offered every destructive accusation in one paragraph.
I understand that you have no basic education but your article concerning gun control shows how truly stupid you are. Gun regulation is needed very badly in the US and if this event doesn’t prove that to you, then you obviously do not care about the kids who died in Conneticut. People like you are the reason these sort of mass shootings occur so often in America”
President Obama is more erudite, but the message is the same. He positions are “common sense,” meaning those disagreeing are stupid. Yet insulting somebody’s intelligence is no less harmful than accusations of malice. The worst accusation one can level at political opponents is to say they “don’t care.”
This line of thinking will determines whether any conversation will be useless or valuable. We all care. To say somebody wants dirty air, dirty water, or heaven forbid, dead children, is vile. The Connecticut shooter wanted dead children. Bashar Assad in Syria murders children. No American politician wants dead children.
Let’s offer the olive branch to President Obama. He deeply cares about children, hence stricter gun control. He may hate guns, but his intentions are noble. He believes gun control saves lives.
He has every right to attempt advancing his agenda. Conservatives have every right to try to stop his agenda. That is a national conversation. He can explain why gun control is good policy, and conservatives like me can claim it is unconstitutional, does not work, and makes society worse.
Yet what if he reverts to demonizing opponents again? He ridiculed conservatives for bitterly clinging to guns and religion. Will he claim conservatives “care more about guns than dead children?” If Congressional Democrats or Democratic Governors say this, will he publicly rebuke them? If a staff member says this, will “accountability” mean a severe verbal lashing or firing?
The national conversation starts with President Obama because he leads the nation. If he argues his views based on policy, a rich discussion can be had. That pressures Republicans to compromise.
If he gets personal again, this will create emboldened, hardened opposition. Obama will have squandered the good will and moral high ground.
Nobody has the right to question another’s heart without knowing them.
Conservatives do care very deeply. We love America and want a better world. We don’t hate liberals. We disagree with them, and are frustrated that too many of them keep hating us. Constantly referring to us as either evil or stupid makes dialogue impossible.
My book “Ideological Bigotry” posed that the reason politics is so destructive is that many liberals do not see conservatives as human beings.
Prove this wrong. Debate gun control, adult movies, video games, mental illness, and public schools. Offer Lincoln vs Douglas or Kennedy vs Nixon. Offer William Buckley’ firing line, not the hostility found among anonymous abusive internet commenters.
President Obama sets the tone. He cannot control how others react, but his own conduct and that of his subordinates rests on his shoulders.
If he offers the civility he desires in others, a natural conversation could happen.
My suspicion is this will not happen. President Obama won reelection by pitting people against each other. Many conservatives are seething, and looking for retribution in 2014. Many politicos see kindness as weakness, Winning at all costs politically trumps meaningful discussion.
If the latter scenario plays out, then President Obama’s Connecticut speech, like his Arizona one, truly was completely in vain.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
Eric is 100% alcohol, tobacco, drug, and liberalism free. Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS. Read more from Eric at TYGRRRR EXPRESS
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