Sunday, August 30, 2009

LACK OF CIVILITY: A COMMENTARY

It seems once again that major events around the world to include the recent exceedingly confrontational and disruptive United States town hall meetings on health care reform, release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Al-Megrahi and the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy are always accompanied by the reactions of individuals who are all to quick to pour salt in the wounds that often accompany these stories. I’m not afraid to comment on those issues and hope that I can bring another dimension to any controversy hopefully in the spirit of decency, fair play and productive debate. That certainly appears to some an exceedingly na├»ve perspective since many of those self righteous, screaming, angst protestors do more to shut down debate, rather than encourage it. In some of those recent US town hall meetings shouting turned to pushing and so on.

The reality with the release of Al-Megrahi is that we are confusing two issues. We are not debating whether someone was wrongfully accused of a crime; rather that someone convicted of that crime was released for reasons other than compassion by the “Scottish Government”. Some in Scotland believe that the decision was made gleefully to discredit Britain and 10 Downing Street while others feel that Scotland was acting as an agent for Great Britain. At any rate many who support Scottish Justice Secretary MacAskill’s decision seem oblivious to this and are attempting to justify the decision by vehemently and aggressively bashing anyone who disagrees with it. Deflection is the game

James Ragland the respected columnist for the Dallas Morning News reminded us again in a recent column of the lack of civility prevalent in our society today. Ragland focused on Senator Edward Kennedy’s passing and the cruel, exceedingly insensitive hate comments which have followed.

No one deserves a free pass and there is no doubt that Teddy in his younger days made some terrible mistakes. We need only mention Mary Jo Kopechne and Chappaquiddick to make that point and note that immediately following Kennedy’s passing Kopechne’s name was Googled more than Kennedy’s - forty years later - once again proving that folks never forget.

Despite his transgressions and what appeared to some as his sometimes insanely liberal politics, he was, I believe, righteously and sincerely motivated and used his position to help the cause of the worker and the poor, disadvantaged and underprivileged in America. As a senior Senator he championed much positive legislation striking partnerships with many on the Republican side who, despite their differences, always left the table with a sincere respect and appreciation for Kennedy. As the “Lion of the Senate” and as President Obama eulogized him as, “the greatest legislator of our time”, Kennedy was able to bring about constructive and much needed reforms. Even if you didn’t agree with his politics, Kennedy allowed you the opportunity to better form your own opinions as he anchored and communicated his liberal perspectives. He loved America and respected all disparate opinions and perspectives. His quiet compassion routinely engaged off camera show me the real Man.

Now while I am not exclusively focusing today on Ted Kennedy, I am making the point that despite whatever differences we may have, there are both positive and non productive ways to address issues central to our world. Individuals screaming invectives like many of the supporters of the MacAskill decision to release convicted Lockerbie bomber Al Megrahi would rather, as Ragland would say, “drop grenades” than engage positive dialogue. It’s their way or the highway.

I was reminded by Dean Kevin Martin in his Sunday sermon at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas, Texas this morning that we as Christians are judged by who we are - what we say and do – what comes out of us – how we speak in the heart. I’d say that’s true whatever our persuasion.

David in Psalm 15 asks who may be a guest in God’s home and have a place in the Church with the response among other things, being the one who does what’s right, speaks honestly and does no insult or harm to others.

The manic Kennedy detractors who would dance and then spit on his grave do themselves an injustice and forever imperil their own ultimate absolution. I am reminded by Alfred Lord Tennyson, “No man ever got very high by pulling other people down. The intelligent merchant does not knock his competitors. The sensible worker does not work those who work with him. Don't knock your friends. Don't knock your enemies. Don't knock yourself.”

Parting Note: I do take exception with one James Ragland comment that “We’ve made it much too quick and easy for them to speak their vile messages.” While that is true, this is the price we pay for an open and free society which encourages participation and guarantees freedom of speech. The paradox is that many of these folks who have crawled out from underneath their rocks use that right (including many foreigners) to try and shut off debate via a not so responsible expression of opinion. That’s what our enemies don’t understand and what may very well be our greatest strength. Yes, it’s a balancing act. Let’s try and be more than a “little breed.”

Aye,

Ned Buxton

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