On the EDge: Dirty, rotten scoundrels are ruining political discourse

OPINION – There was a time when I enjoyed a good, vigorous political discussion.

The more passionate the better.

Not now.

Not these days.

No way.

Unless, of course, you are prepared to get down and dirty in the name-calling and nastiness with the dirty, rotten scoundrels who are unleashing all kinds of ugliness these days when it comes to our current political situation.

I’ve heard and read some things lately that would make a sailor blush.

Look, we’ve got some serious issues we’re facing right now. The chasm between left and right has never been deeper. And, we need to fix things. A lot of things.

But it won’t happen if we spend more time trying to slam each other. The playground taunts, partisan slurs and general disregard for each other will do nothing to repair the damage.

There is a difference between a well-crafted bon mot and the vile, vitriolic invective that has slipped into our everyday discourse.

That doesn’t mean we should back down our personal beliefs.

We should, now more than ever, stand tall behind what we believe. In fact, for the good of the nation, we should be required to step from the shadows and declare ourselves, but with a sense of decency rather than anger.

Anger is a true, honest emotion, of course, and there are a lot of angry people today. However, there are many ways to dispose of that anger other than just lashing out at the most convenient target.

I’ve seen it argued that Mark Twain was a crusty, intolerant old codger who could be rather insulting in his rebukes, that if it was OK for Twain, why not the average Joe?

Well, the average Joe doesn’t have the intellect or grace of Mark Twain, whose words were always well-chosen and well-placed, usually with a certain charm that left the target a large degree of dignity. And, Twain’s barbs were, for the most part, observations of the human race in general. I mean, it is rather difficult to quibble with this observation of his: “Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.”

If only.

The argument has been made that the liberals, conservatives, libertarians do it, why can’t I?

Because it is wrong.

Because it denigrates the conversation.

Because the moment you toss invective into the conversation, you negate everything else you have said, including the salient points you may have raised.

You turn off your audience, you anger the person you are in supposed “discussion” with and you come across as uninformed and incapable of arguing your position coherently.

Plus, the offended party has legitimate recourse to strike back. I don’t think Facebook imposes the “Turn the other cheek” rule.

None of us should be so thin-skinned that we cannot accept and deal with fair and honest criticism. If you don’t like what somebody has to say, fine. Make a cogent remark, argue your case, but don’t come charging out of the gate calling names and pointing fingers, particularly the middle digit. It’s not going to get you anywhere but snickered at and, if it occurs on Facebook, as so many of these insults do, be prepared to be deleted, hidden or “unfriended,” the ultimate social media punishment. It is not a violation of the First Amendment, by the way, if somebody deletes your comment because the owner of the Facebook page – much like the publisher of a news outlet – is the final gatekeeper to free speech and can make the decision regarding what is published and what is not published.

The nastiness isn’t reserved to one political persuasion or another, it just seems that way.

If your politics reside on the left, you will, naturally, be more aware of barbs from the right. If your politics are conservative in nature, you will feel the bite of those from the left.

Want to start a fight?

Start some discussion with the words: “I don’t care what side you’re on, this is funny.”

Humor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Especially political humor.

When it mistakenly appeared that Hillary Clinton would win the election, I was wondering how to deal with my Republican friends.

Certainly, I told myself, I would not be rude enough to suggest that they “Deal with it,” because I hold my friends in higher regard. I knew they would not be happy and that if we were to attempt any kind of reunification, we needed to be gracious winners.

I wish I could say the same courtesy has been extended.

But, the ugliness persists.

The anti-POTUS slurs have been volleyed hot and heavy with little regard for substantiation.

I mean, OK, I get it, you don’t like the guy in the Oval Office, but tell me why, give me some reasons. Make a case, share your reasons, do something more than simply tossing out one of those childish taunts making the rounds. Be original, share your reason for disliking him instead of using some tired old playground name.

The pro-POTUS discussion, if you want to call it that, has also been ugly with specious references and citations linked to questionable sources.

Throughout our history, we’ve had some very ugly political situations, it’s the nature of politics.

But, somehow, we found ways to overcome, to set aside our differences, no matter how extreme, and persevere for the good of the nation.

I simply don’t see that happening now.

In fact, I see even greater separation, distrust and anger.

We will, on the one hand, see a continuation of the pep rallies across the nation in administration strongholds, opportunities to bask in adulation. On the other, we will see a continuation of the protests and demonstrations that have somewhat unified the various factions of the left.

The clash will continue.

It will worsen.

And this chaos will continue.

Unless we draw a metaphoric line on the keyboard that we will not cross.


Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • Not_So_Much February 21, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Perhaps we can all agree to demand a balanced budget from all levels of government without increasing any taxes or fees.

  • Brian February 21, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Until both sides agree to a common sense commitment to the truth we’re hosed.

    When zero liberals call out Harry Reid for blatantly lying about Romney’s taxes (and bragging about it later because “it worked”), we have a problem.

    When conservatives forward email after email that are clearly and absurdly false and can be proven fiction within seconds using Google, we have a problem.

    I can’t watch the news anymore (from either side) because they’re both so clearly biased and slanted.

    The US Constitution has one glaring weakness: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams.

    Until we get our souls back, on an individual and collective basis, where morality and a commitment to the truth and true principles are the rule rather than the exception, we’re in trouble.

    • comments February 21, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      “Until we get our souls back, on an individual and collective basis, where morality and a commitment to the truth and true principles are the rule rather than the exception, we’re in trouble.”

      I agree with you. The question is how do we do it?

      • comments February 21, 2017 at 12:36 pm

        Especially given that so many of today’s leaders and popular role models have less conscience or morality than a snake or reptile

  • comments February 21, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Ed, I really wish you could write about things other than the (somewhat artificial) left wing/right wing paradigm. It seems I’ve read a dozen of your columns like this that boil down to something like “can’t we all just get along”. Bryan Hyde’s column has actually evolved and is interesting much of the time, while yours has become rather repetitive and stale. I just feel you can do better if you put your mind to it. Maybe you just watch too much CNN and other fake news? I don’t know.

  • commonsense February 22, 2017 at 8:06 am

    Ed, I seldom agree with you but I think you got it right this time. This country is in trouble. The polarization is tearing us apart. I have made a personal committment to not post any political stuff on Facebook. I have warned my friends that I will unfriended them for posting political stuff. This is a start.

  • Sapphire February 22, 2017 at 8:23 am

    We live in a country without law, order, morals, or respect. It won’t be turning around any time soon. Getting negative attention is what spoiled entitled children do.

  • tcrider February 22, 2017 at 8:38 am

    the Dungle Trump,
    never my pile,

  • commonsense February 22, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    It’s hard to have a political dialogue. Each side has its unique style. The right does resort to facts which are exaggerated. The left labels. For example, “Trump is a racist”. How do you fact check that? Or “Trump is full of hate”.
    How do we discuss that? I wish the left would put forth policy that we can talk about. This obstruct and protest campaign is very divisive. Let’s hear proposed legislation from the left on immigration, health care reform, inner city violence, etc. Right now both sides are campaigning. The right and left each has a solid base around 25%. Only 15%
    of Americans trust congress or the media.
    Is this going to be another civil war?

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