Civic Discourse

Rhetoric and Violence

As several commenters have pointed out in other threads, there were two potentially ideologically motivated murders in the last 48 hours.

On Sunday morning, a well-known late term abortionist was shot and killed while attending services at his Lutheran church.

On Monday morning, a man opened fire on the recruiters at an Army-Navy career center in Little Rock, Arkansas — killing one and injuring a second. (The military being a needed and honorable profession, my prayers are all with these men and their families.)

Suspects for both crimes are now in custody and doubtless the machinery of justice will do its work in due time.

However, only the first of these is considered national political news, and while many are calling for soul searching on the part of the pro-life movement (or in some cases for government surveillance and downright suppression on it) few seem to be making similar calls in regards to the anti-war movement.

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Symbolic Action

Symbols mean things, but they do not necessarily accomplish things in concrete fashion, so they often seem to be a prime source of argument and misunderstanding in the political arena.

Last week, environmental activists throughout the US participated in a “green hour” in which they all committed to turn off all electricity-using appliances in their possession for one hour (from 8-9pm, as I recall). This was supposed to express to the leaders of the G-20 nations the importance of moving to implement regulations to reduce the burning of fossil fuels.

Not being a major devotee of the global warming cause (I don’t think the kind of restrictions that could realistically be passed would do much good if global warming is in fact a man-made phenomenon, so I would be more interested in putting resources into mitigation than regulating power production) this gesture strikes me as a bit silly. If you really thought that reducing power consumption was important, it seems to me you should reduce your power consumption. Permanently, that is, not just for one hour and then go back to normal.

In the same sense, I suspect that the continuing controversy over Notre Dame University honoring President Obama looks silly to outsiders.

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If I Ran The Zoo

I’m not sure that anyone, at any point of the political spectrum would consider what our nation witnessed last night under the name of “debate” to be an example of scintillating civic discourse. No one has asked me how to run our national political campaigns, so I thought I’d just present my idea of an interesting debate unasked for. My goals are that it promote real discourse, and that it provide enough entertainment value that people will be likely to watch.

The debate is to be conducted before an audience, with security to escort out anyone who becomes too disruptive. The seating should be in the round, so we can invoke gladiatorial archetypes as we watch the candidates spar.

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