(Just for full disclosure - I am an American who is a conservative, has protested at Tea Parties, and is an active social media user. I work full time in education and happen to be a Christian).
The rise of hate speech in America will have already caused many of you to stop reading because of some of the ways I identified myself in my disclosure. If you are still with me, thank you.
Today I took a stand and stood with approximately 30 other people outside Senator Bill Nelson's office here. We were there to protest the massive health Care Reform package that is being bullied through congress, filled with pork, with no true debate and no time for reading and researching the long term effects of passage. I will be tweeting at the Twitter Tea Party at noon Saturday for the same reasons against Cap and Trade. This bill would bankrupt industry, agriculture and education in Florida, kill our real estate market and tourism, and force many people out of work and industries out of our country. It's just not the right time for these massive, unread intrusive regulatory bills when we are still in the midst of a recession that we were told in January was a crisis. I have not seen much improvement in economic numbers, and yet suddenly the crisis can be set aside to force passage of these sweeping reforms. And it is my right to say so.
On the way home I was listening to an interview on local TALK RADIO (88.5 FM, Tampa) decrying the evils of all the "right wing talk show hosts like Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck and O'Reilly" who are inciting the masses to violence. This is a patently untrue statement. I frequently watch Glenn Beck, get frustrated with Bill O'Reilly because he so often does NOT say what his stand is on issues and very occasionally hear Rush. An yet, this radio very clearly said that I was being incited to violence. They are speaking untruths about people they don't know, and yet this is not classified as hate speech. At the same time there was no mention of the Muslim American who killed two of our service men who happened to work in a recruiting station being incited to violence. By who? The liberal media who constantly preached of "American soldiers killing innocent women and children in Iraq". That was his reason "They are murdering women and children and killing them is my right as a Muslim".
The people I have met at Tea Parties are not remotely considering anything violent, and yet the liberal press constantly paints us as "right-wing extremist nut jobs". I know I don't have a violent bone in my body. Glenn Beck in particular, even in his total frustration with the direction our gov't has been taking for decades, constantly reminds readers, listeners and viewers that his is not a call to violence but to civil dissent. In his author's note in "Common Sense" (now #1 on the NYT Bestseller List) he says- "Violence is the easy way out - but it is also the sure path to discrediting everything you stand for.." - citing Dr Martin Luther King, Jr as an example of what can be accomplished through non-violent protest.
Here is my point. We have become an America where no true debate is possible. We are a nation of "people groups" all drawn into our little corners and shouting at each other rather than talking. From the halls of Congress where our elected representatives laugh at those with opposing views, to mainstream media who feel free (on all channels) to question someone's character, motives, and personhood, rather than actually investigating their stances on issues. And yes, the liberal media who refuse to mention the growing voice of dissent in the Tea Party movement, instead calling honest hard-working citizens who number in the hundreds of thousands "racist tea bagging rednecks" for exercising their constitutional rights - again including me in that description.
How can healthy debate happen when the government doesn't respect us (another form of hate and derision) enough to even read what they are voting for? 1300 page major legislation is passed through Congress with nothing remotely resembling bipartisan debate. Congressional debate is when people from all sides sit down over a considerable period of time and work out compromise solutions that are best for the American people - not special interest groups, parties or reelection guarantees. It is about to happen again on Health Care with the President pushing the Senate to start marking up the bill and get it passed before August recess.
Congress exists because the founders felt the need checks and balances on executive power. They do not have to respond to this pressure. they can set the agenda, and yet they refuse to act like adults and talk to each other. Congressman Denny Hoyer said yesterday "“If every member pledged to not vote for it if they hadn’t read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes,” Hoyer told CNSNews.com at his regular weekly news conference. Hoyer was responding to a question from CNSNews.com on whether he supported a pledge that asks members of the Congress to read the entire bill before voting on it and also make the full text of the bill available to the public for 72 hours before a vote. .
Last night I voiced a reaction to something someone tweeted, hoping for some lively productive debate, and instead was called a "typical right wing whore". I'm a big girl. I can handle it. But that does not make it right or acceptable. I cannot even reprint the absolutely vile sexual comments that far left liberal tweeters are saying about Governor Palin this week But far right Tweeters are just as bad, comparing Obama to Hitler and saying Nancy Pelosi has sex with dogs (or encouraging her to).
And that leaves the rest of us - who are neither in the extreme far left camp(10%) or the extreme far right camp (10%) unable to talk to each other for fear of being painted with vile labels, having our character assassinated or even our careers ruined. I have thought about running for local office. I have not because I fear the skeletons in my closet - come on, we all have them because we are ALL human - would be aired to humiliate me and my family. That would be done with no regard to my intelligence or ability to affect sensible change.
I grew up in a country were people agreed to disagree, and if something was worth fighting for, we did it honestly. People of all colors, political persuasions and belief systems fought the veils of slavery, fought for Women's Suffrage, worked together to defeat the evils of Nazi tyranny, rode Freedom buses, and recently united in Twitter support of Iran and Honduras.
And yet we have come to a point where we canot talk to each other about anything of import without insults, vulgarity and derision. We, all of us -politicians, newscasters, citizens - have to realize that unless we have marked it private, everything we say in social media, on radio and on TV (almost everyone has cable now - so cable "news" does not get a pass) everything we say is available for public consumption. There are just some things that should not be said in polite company. Does that mean I support the national cyber-hate crimes legislation being floated right now? No. But I believe we need to start taking some personal responsibility for what we say. And yes, I am going to go back through my own posts and see what I might have said in anger or thoughtlessness that needs rethinking.
It is a sad day in America. Can we possibly just say "YES" to respect each other, and "YES" to talking to each other? And agree to disagree?