Taming Political Discourse

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When I first heard that ESPN had asked a reporter not to cover a UVA game because his name is Robert Lee, I’ll admit I found the decision utterly ridiculous. But I was loath to admit it out loud. Why? Because I knew the incident would be trotted out endlessly on every Fox News show and by every right wing politician trying to discredit liberalism.

Such is the state of public discourse today. Non-stop news coverage, political blogs, and social media have made communication a polarizing and fraught enterprise. The brouhaha about Confederate statues is a case in point.

There are legitimate reasons for citizens to call for the removal of statues glorifying the era of the Confederacy, a secessionist movement that amounted to rebellion against the United States. Despite what many Southerners see as an assault on their heritage, there is no denying that Confederate leaders stood for the preservation of slavery and used that cause to motivate Southern forces to fight the North.

On the other hand, there are arguments to be made about keeping the statues, and from my point of view, the biggest argument in favor of leaving statues alone is that we have much bigger fish to fry when it comes to racial justice. Furthermore, the threat of removing them has given white supremacists a cause to rally around, bringing them out en masse with sometimes devastating results.

On the Right, of course, pundits and politicians wonder aloud if it’s a slippery slope from removing Robert E. Lee to getting rid of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. They ridicule calls for defunding the Jefferson Memorial or removing Confederate statues from the Capitol building. Some rightly point out that many Southern Democrats were themselves segregationists back in the day.

This whole issue makes my head hurt. And I feel that it’s a distraction from policy-making in Washington. Republicans have been trying to do serious damage to social entitlement programs. Our president keeps threatening new countries with military action. The Trump Administration is dialing back progress on the environment by refusing to admit to the realities of climate change and by encouraging the revival of such destructive practices as coal mining.

Let’s get back to discussing these important issues in a reasonable and respectful way so that positive change can be made in our society.

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2 thoughts on “Taming Political Discourse

  1. The most interesting solution I have heard is Andrew Young’s; he called for a liberty bell to be added to the Stone Mountain memorial. He said it was what Dr. King would have wanted because of Dr. King’s call, “Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain.”

    My mother was Southern. I went to Stone Mountain as a child and am very conflicted about the current discourse. I have ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. I certainly understand and sympathize but am largely silent in this debate, for fear that I just won’t be understood. My Northern relations were far more racist than my Southern ones, who condemned the racism of ONE of my great uncles. I never heard the “N” word out of any of my Southern relations except for him. My and my husband’s New York and East Coast relations? Many are/were racist, including my father. None of them would say they are/were racist.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Janice. I just think it’s needlessly polarizing an already divided country. I’m more concerned about concrete actions being taken (or not taken) in governments at the local, state, and federal level.

      Like

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