A Better Way to Be Critical of Republicans
Sometimes there's stuff in The Pilot to comment on that just jumps out and smacks you upside the head like a -runaway pitch, high and inside.
Take Wednesday's Opinion page. Editor Steve Bouser points out to a commenter bemoaning the lack of -positive news stories, "My heart goes out to the writer. I know how he/she (I sense it must be a she) feels. We're all in the process of tearing this wonderful country of ours to pieces, and we have to stop. And I'm not trying to be defensive. But I do have to point out a blatant irony here."
Mr. Bouser then lists a number of positive and uplifting stories from the paper and proves his point. And he's right. The Pilot brims with positive human interest stories. My interest, though, is having a closer look at examples where public discourse is -tearing us apart.
For even greater irony, grab ahold of Wednesday's Pilot and read Earle Hightower's letter, "GOP Alienating Itself." You can't miss it. It's directly below Bouser's column.
Directed mostly at Sarah Palin for stupid jokes she has made about eating what she hunts (Sarah, these jokes aren't working out for you), instead of rational discourse, Hightower comes unglued.
If gold medals were awarded for dialogue that has the train of conversation careening off the tracks and down into a ditch, Hightower wins one. Consider his opening remarks: "It is obvious that the national Republican Party is being run by a gang of idiots who are determined to drive it to extinction."
This is so because Palin is anti-environment, an animal hater, predestined to drill in pristine forests, a killer of all Alaskan wolves, and "I suspect Palin is accepting money from oil company lobbyists to push their 'drill everywhere' agenda."
Further, those idiot Republicans chose Michael Steele as chairman of the party "to secure the black vote, which will never -happen." Ooh, another gold medal for nice use of the race card! Finally, all this is true because the Republican Party has aligned itself with the radical policies of the National Rifle Association, which shares responsibility for Sarah's stupid jokes about what's for dinner.
Folks, this is what swirling around in the toilet bowl of public discourse sounds like. Nothing offered, nothing gained. Pure, unadulterated, unhinged anger and spew. There's nothing to discuss, nowhere to go, nothing to debate or converse about.
If we really care about this dialogue -polarization, and I'm not convinced we do, then let's do something about it. We can start by controlling ourselves and thinking before we speak. If we can't offer an opinion -without name-calling and unclipping -ourselves from reason, then let's keep our thoughts to ourselves until we can.
If we're a newspaper, and we really do "share the concern about the negativity and conflict that spoil so much of our public -discourse," as Mr. Bouser posits, then maybe we should delouse these types of -letters until they're fit to print. There are plenty of constructive ways to criticize Palin, Steele and the NRA with letters that don't make a bad situation worse.
Talking to each other is as much about -listening as it is talking. If we don't agree with what someone has said and want to argue, then point out why the person is wrong based on something other than -name-calling. Conversation and debate are useful when points are made the other may not have thought about. That person may then change his mind on part or all of what is being discussed.
For example, by reading Palin's autobiography, readers learn early on that her motivation to get into public life was because of what happened to the environment, the Alaskan people, wildlife and the state's economy after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. That's why when she became governor, one of her first priorities was to set up Alaska's Petroleum Systems Integrity Office to go after companies like BP, whose cost-cutting tactics often resulted in oil leaks and spills on the North Slope.
As an environmentalist who also hunts for her food, she should educate the public on why those two things go hand in hand - and leave the jokes behind.
Geoff Cutler is owner of Cutler Tree LLC in Southern Pines and is a regular contributor to The Pilot and PineStraw magazine. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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