Wednesday, November 15, 2006

absurdities in the letters to the editor page vol. 1.0

This was be the first in what I’m sure will be a long series of reactions to letters to the editor that appear in Lancaster’s newspapers.

In his letter of November 14th Richard Marcks makes a good point. Western civilization is facing an extraordinary threat from radical, fundamentalist Islam and there are some people in the west who either do not take the threat seriously or do not have a reasonable plan for dealing with it. Unfortunately outside of that one point his letter devolves into absurdities mixed with the absence of facts.

First, Marcks’ interpretation of the results of the midterm election leaves out some important information about the exit polling and motivations for many voters. He concludes that the only reason for the nation’s change in direction is the war in Iraq. That was a big issue for voters no doubt, but he seems to have forgotten (or purposefully ignored) the unprecedented level of corruption in the federal government right now. The list is endless: Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R, CA) being on the take, Don Sherwood’s (R, PA) shenanigans, Jack Abramoff, out of control federal spending, the rising deficit that will leave our children and grandchildren with crippling debt.

Not to mention that the Republicans lost three congressional seats because the representatives sitting in them had to resign in disgrace when it was too late to remove their names from the ballot. There was Bob Ney of Ohio (tied to Abramoff), Tom Delay (also an Abramoff crony) of Texas and Mark Foley of Florida. I don’t think I need to go into the reason for Foley’s resignation not to mention the Republican leadership’s subsequent cover up of Foley’s peccadilloes.

So let’s not pretend that the voters didn’t have a whole laundry list of reasons to throw out the GOP leadership in congress.

Everyone can let their partisanship influence their selective use of facts so I will forgive Marcks for his poor interpretation of the election. However, he crosses a line of decency and leaves rational thought behind when he says that the midterm election was “a clear victory for al-Qaida.”

I think we need to set some new rules for how one can automatically lose a political debate. If you reduce yourself to these techniques you forfeit any claim to legitimacy. Comparing your opponent to Hitler would be one instance. Accusing your opponent of hating America is another. Saying that a victory for your opponent is a victory for al-Qaida should definitely qualify you for being laughed out of a room. Any variation on these arguments should be shunned by any person with a measurable IQ no matter what their political philosophy or party.

Any serious person in this country knows that al-Qaida is a grave threat. I would say that fundamentalism (religious or political) of all stripes is a threat to the rational thought and liberties of the west. But we won’t solve any problems, especially the problem of terrorism, if our political discussion is reduced to accusing each other of treason or saying that terrorists are “hoping and praying for” the victory of those who disagree with us. Patriots can disagree on the best approach for solving any problem.

This post is not a plea for civility. Political debate is rough; feelings get hurt. This is a call for intelligence. It is in that spirit that I ask Mr. Marcks (and other people who think that a Democratic victory is a win for al-Qaida) to turn off Rush Limbaugh, stop, take a deep breath and think before you speak or write a letter to the editor.

1 comment:

grantwasgreat said...

But that's the very problem with our poltical system of only possessing two parties. No one wakes up in the morning and says "hey, today I am going to work to make the world a worse place, because I am a bad person." (Although they made a great point about this in the season premiere of Battlestar Galactica, but I digress) So if I am the good guy then the other side has to be the bad guy. This is endemic of America's obsession with false dychotomies. I'm straight or gay, I'm liberal or conservative, I'm christian or atheist. You're with us or your against us. At the end of the day, this is what divides our country into two camps and turns us against each other, which really is a win for Al-queada. People complain all the time about the politics of division, but no one takes the time to ask why it works. Karl Rove's approach works because it appeals to the worst aspect of American nature. But hey, lets all continue to argue about who is a bigger patriot while the country falls apart. The Romans would be so proud.