Tuesday, March 13, 2012

To Encourage Civil Discourse

Recently Rush Limbaugh launched a blistering attack on a third year law school student who had dared to defend the Administration’s regulation requiring health insurance policies to include contraception for women. On the first day of his attack Limbaugh called Ms. Fluke a whore and a prostitute. The next day he suggested that she should videotape her sexual encounters so he could watch them and on the third day continued his ugly attack.

Michelle Malkin in her latest editorial defends Mr. Limbaugh. She lists a number of similar attacks by liberal TV and radio commentators on conservatives, including herself. She then concludes that since liberals make such horrible nasty statements about conservatives, Limbaugh should be permitted to use similar language to attack Ms. Fluke.

Fortunately commentators and editorial writers on both the right and the left disagree. They have condemned this attack on this woman. I believe the vast majority find these vile, hateful rants whether by the right or the left, unacceptable.   

On the other hand there are a lot of people who do find this language acceptable.  Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich gave weak responses when asked to comment on Limbaugh’s tirade?  Santorum said that Limbaugh was “an entertainer.” which I guess allows him to viciously attack young women. Santorum is often on stage surrounded by his wife and daughters. I can’t help wondering how entertained he would be if Limbaugh had called any of them sluts and prostitutes for defending their beliefs as Americans.

Cal Thomas (a conservative writer) at a meeting of CPAC, in a feeble attempt at humor, suggested that if Ms. Maddow’s (a liberal talk show host) mother had used birth control the world would be better off. He realized then that a gentleman should never wish someone to be dead or to never have been born. So he called Ms. Maddow, apologized, and offered to take her to lunch. She accepted and later he devoted a column to it and she told the story on her program showing a picture of them together.  She reported that he was an intelligent, interesting man with a great sense of humor and that they had enjoyed their time together. Together they set an example for civil discourse which I hope others will follow.

I am not suggesting that a sincere  apology by Rush to Ms. Fluke would do any good and I am sure lunch wouldn’t be a good idea either. Limbaugh (and he has company on the right and left) is a mean nasty man who has capitalized on his ability to attack those who can’t fight back. Fortunately there are not a lot of Limbaughs in the world.

It would, however, be a breath of fresh air for people like Cal Thomas who, for whatever reason, belittles or attacks someone, to apologize to that person, and for the person attacked to graciously accept that apology.

Ms. Malkin in her column mentions an attack by Ed Schultz on Laura Ingraham. Perhaps we can draw a lesson from how that was handled. MSNBC gave Shultz a week off without pay. Schultz read a sincere apology before his next broadcast, then introduced the man who would take his place that week. I don’t think he has slipped into vile or insulting discourse since.

President of Georgetown University claimed the high ground in this controversy  Even though he disagreed with his student’s position he said “”she provided a model of civil discourse. This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people. One need not support her substantive position to support her right to respectful free expression”. It is a shame that the John DeGioia’s aren’t the ones with radio programs that attract millions of listeners.  

My most interesting friends are those with whom I disagree. They are the ones who challenge me to think. They are also the ones that force me to search for arguments to support my positions. Sometimes I can’t find one.  That does not make me angry. It makes me a better person.

 We all must learn to listen. I am afraid we all know to well how to talk.

1 comment:

  1. Many in the far right wing are actually defending Rush and calling Ms. Fluke a part of a White House conspiracy. Sandra Fluke would have had her 15 minutes of fame and slipped into obscurity if not for Rush's attacks. Are we to believe that the White House, in their conspiratorial ways, was prescient enough to know Rush was going to attack? No this is a clear case of political spin, defending the indefensible. Typical of the far right wing media!