by user Ayd
My last post asked the question whether liberals were just as bad as conservatives when it came to rhetoric. The answer, for me, is no. I think the left has a long way to go until their rhetoric and hyperbole matches the bile spewed by Ann Coulter and her cult of hatred. At the same time, I concluded that the Left is getting there, and not so slowly.
Hatred is not something we should aspire too. Vilifying and degrading your opponent gets you nowhere. It wins you no friends and gets you no closer to a resolution. Instead of breaking down the walls of disagreement, it creates even larger blockades. One does not need to hate in order to disagree, and one does not need to respect their adversary to act with respect toward their adversary.
I don't hate Republicans. I don't even hate George W. Bush. I disagree with them. Often, I disagree with them forcefully. I think the vast majority of their positions are bad for America. Unlike Ann Coulter, or Bill O'Reilly, I don't have to make them the enemy in order to disagree with them. I don't have to insult them in order debate them.
One thing in particular that worries me is that when you demonize your opponent you run the risk of dehumanizing them. When politics becomes less about the policies and more about the persons, violence ensues. Aaron Burr and Charles Sumner know that all too well. I look at the political environment and I wonder whether we will have a future of political violence.
I think back to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in Israel. The rhetoric at the time was vile from both sides, but particularly the far Israeli right. Instead of a debate about whether the Oslo accords were in the bets interest of Israel, Rabin became the focus. Rabin was a Nazi. People publicly talked about the wrath of God would be brought down on whoever surrendered Jewish control over any part of Judea or Samaria. Rabin, as Ann Coulter smeared all Democrats years later, was a traitor. Likewise, Rabin and the Israeli left lambasted the Israeli right. They ignored the needs and the complaints of Israel's religious community calling their Rabbis "Ayatollahs." The left did not talk, act or feel, like their right wing opponents were human beings. The right wing not only felt the same, but thought that God was on their side. Everyone ignored the rhetoric as "politics as usual," but it made Leah Rabin a widow.
I don't bring this up to get into who was right, who was wrong, or whether the Olso accords are a good thing. I bring it up just to point out that the less human you make your opponent out to be, the more likely that violence can follow. It is no surprise that militias dehumanize their opponents in order to brainwash their fighters. Likewise, it is no surprise that negotiators try to humanize a kidnappers victim.
George W. Bush is wrong. His views are doing America harm. His policies are making the rich richer and sending our youth to fight in an unnecessary war. But George W. Bush is not the enemy. He, and the Republican Party, are the opponent, but they are not the enemy. There is a difference and it is one that I encourage everyone to try to understand and embrace. My fear is that if we keep following the same path that we are on, as I posted in October of last year, politics and violence will be forever intertwined.