Archive for Thursday, September 4, 2003

Oinion: Talk gives way to name-calling

September 4, 2003

A lively, vigorous debate is a healthy thing. The principle that informed debate will lead to better decisions that protect and advance the common good forms the basis for most of our political institutions, on the national, state and local level.

Unfortunately, much of today's political discourse has more in common with the tactics of Attila the Hun than with the rhetoric of Socrates. Reasoned debate has given way to invective and name-calling.

Time was when political opponents could at least maintain a veneer of mutual respect and, to use a word that describes a quality so rare today as to seem almost extinct, gentlemanliness; no more. The viciousness of today's slash-and-burn rhetoric leaves no room for anything but an equally vitriolic response, as charge and countercharge build upon each other in an escalating spiral, out of control. Not surprisingly, each new, angry level makes more remote the possibility of compromise or reconciliation.

We have, it seems, lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable.

The answer to this problem is simple to say, if it is not so simple to do. It is to seek solutions rather than assign blame, to focus our arguments on issues rather than personalities.

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