B.A. in Anchorage
A Commentary By Susan Estrich
I got a very nice e-mail from B.A. in Anchorage yesterday. Actually, it wasn't very nice. She (I think it's a she, but I don't know for sure) thinks I'm completely clueless and worse. But that's OK. She doesn't think I should be killed or strung up because I disagree with her. Reading the e-mail wasn't so scary that I had to forward it to the campus police and wonder why I bother. As far as I could tell, B.A. was actually trying to have a civil conversation with me about why she thought I was wrong.
God bless her.
It's been not even a year since this country elected Barack Obama, a man who ran not to be the black president but the president. As he stood there that night in Chicago, and again a few months later in Washington on the steps of the Capitol, he pledged not to divide the country but to heal the divisions.
How is it that nine months into his presidency, the name calling is so out of hand that it is a relief to get an e-mail you don't have to delete because it's full of hateful obscenities? And I'm just a little fish in this fight. I talk to people who are bigger players -- elected officials and political leaders, talking heads with their own shows and more newspapers running them than I'll ever have -- and we whisper about how scary it is "out there." But it's not "out there." It's right here, on your computer, on your radio, on your TV, everywhere you look.
Of course, as B.A. reminded me, Nancy Pelosi et al. did not exactly treat the presidency with respect when George W. Bush held the job. Neither did many liberal commentators, which is one reason they have their own shows and websites and beach houses. I can say, with all honesty, that I never preached hate, but so what and who cares? Lots of others did, maybe not heckling from the back of Congress in a joint session (sorry, B.A., but I do think that's different), but certainly in other places.
The problem is that there's no end to this game of tit-for-tat. You destroy Obama because we destroyed Bush. We destroyed Bush because of what you did to Clinton. Hard economic times only make it easier. It's not difficult to fire up people when they are frightened and insecure, which so many of us are, with reason. Who doesn't feel like yelling and screaming when you see your pension disappear or you can't make your house payments and you don't even know how to explain to your kids that you don't have the money to buy them what they want or need?
Two wrongs don't make a right. "He started it" is not an excuse. Isn't this what we all teach our children? Why doesn't it also apply to us? Eight years of wrongs do not justify eight more, and then eight more after that.
Health care reform is important. But civility and decency are even more important. Our democracy cannot survive without them. Sticks and stones are not the only things that hurt. Names hurt, too. We will end up not just hating our presidents, but hating each other.
So I wrote back to B.A., and she wrote back to me. "May God help us all find our way back to civil discourse," she said in closing. Amen.
This weekend marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year. To all of those who are celebrating, Shanah Tovah -- a happy and healthy New Year, and one in which we find our way back together.
COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS.COM
See Other Political Commentaries
See Other Commentaries by Susan Estrich
Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.
Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.
We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.
Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.
To learn more about our methodology, click here.