Cutting Through the Noise
The political noise in this country has become so loud, it’s hard to know what to think. Each side screams and rants and raves, carrying signs and waving flags.
When Maine’s Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R) stood before the Senate on June 1, 1950, to give her Declaration of Conscience, she was concerned about the level of vitriol and hate speech that threatened the country’s security and peace during the McCarthy era. She courageously took to the podium in the Senate, just four rows in front of Sen. McCarthy, to speak against the level of radical discourse in the Senate and society at large. She was a brave and courageous Republican who bravely chose to break from her party and overcome fear to speak the truth:
Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism —
The right to criticize;
The right to hold unpopular beliefs;
The right to protest;
The right of independent thought.
The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know some one who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn’t? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.
The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as “Communists” or “Fascists” by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others. The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed. But there have been enough proved cases to cause nationwide distrust and strong suspicion that there may be something to the unproved, sensational accusations.
The United States is not yet, I hope, at the level of fear and frustration to which Senator Smith spoke. But there is nationwide concern that we are once again headed down that road about which Senator Smith spoke so eloquently.
“The pen is mightier than the sword.”
It’s easy on the internet to deride someone who holds a different view from ours when the consequences of our words are negligible or non-existant. But think of this: would you call your next door neighbor or office worker, to his or her face, a “Demorat” or “libtard”? Over Thanksgiving dinner, would you tell your cousin he’s a “knuckle-dragger” or a “Republicon”? Denigration is easy on the internet; there are few if any consequences. However, just because it’s posted on the internet, far from physical or personal consequences, does not mean those remarks are okay.
How would you feel if someone said them to your face or you could see the consequences of those words you spoke in a moment of heat in the face of your friends, family, office mates and neighbors? Would you regret them? Words do have consequences. Calling me a “libtard” or you a “knuckle-dragger” only stirs up anger-induced defense mechanisms in the brain, leading not to rational thought but to self-defense and more anger.
As an undergraduate, my Rhetoric professor, trained by Jesuits in classical rhetoric and logic, stated that during a debate, when you stoop to personal attacks rather than logically attacking your opponent’s argument, you’ve lost the debate because it becomes apparent that you don’t have a good argument against his proposition or case. In other words, by attacking the person rather than the argument, you’ve surrendered the validity of your argument. You’ve become like the stereotypical bully who descends into violence.
When our public officials and leaders say words that divide us as a nation, it leads to what Senator Smith said:
Yet to displace it with a…regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation. … But I don’t want to see [a]…Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.
I doubt if the … Party could — simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we … aren’t that desperate for victory.
Breaking the Cycle of Fear and Frustration
As a supporter of Jewish Funds for Justice, even though not a Jew, I often join my voice to theirs. I do so again with the following video. I urge you to send this video to your friends and family to change the way we speak to each other as friends, neighbors, and countrymen.