Friday, September 2, 2011

Sticks and Stones

You remember the old saying, "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me"?  I don't agree with the  premise though... words do matter.  Robert Fulghum's "All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten" doesn't specifically mention our words, but would be a great blueprint for all of us to practice, especially our elected officials.  My daughter Sarah, teaches second graders in Indy and she is still teaching and reinforcing these common sense principles: the golden rule; please and thank you; respect others; hum, it must be really important.

Name calling... uncivil discourse; this isn't my favorite topic, but enough is enough.  Congress is on summer recess, the race for the White House is just heating up, and during this slow period I was grasping for a hot current topic.  It was the last straw; this week an Indiana congressman has joined the chorus of hate speech. U.S. Representative Andre Carson (D, IN) from Indianapolis is now a YouTube hit.  While speaking in Miami, as a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Carson spews, "the Tea Party movement would love to see black Americans hanging on a tree". The full context of his speech does not exempt him from this hateful, despicable language, it reinforces it. Speak for yourself congressman, but I am not a racist. I didn't realize that challenging Congress to be more fiscally responsible, was a racist action. I'm used to hearing these kinds of statements from politicians on the Left coast; Representative Maxine Waters (D, CA) is a classic hatemonger, but from the modest, temperate, polite Midwest?  Indianapolis?

I'm not naive or pure as the white, driven snow... I realize politics is a contact sport and some of today's confrontations pale to the days when Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton had their own duel.  Can you imagine the political fallout if our current Vice President, Joe Biden shot and killed Henry Paulson (former Treasury Secretary) in a gunfight!  However, I find it interesting that our President does not call out those of his own party, including his own Vice President, when they disregard his own challenge to move our political discourse to a more civil level. Remember when Obama lectured us in January about being more civil as he politicized the Gabby Giffords tragedy?

We are far removed from the days when political arguments were over differing viewpoints, not mean-spirited personal character attacks.  There's nothing wrong with healthy political debate over policy or philosophy, that's part of what makes America great, but the name calling must stop!  I held opposing political views from those of the late United States Senator from Minnesota, Hubert Humphrey, but he is one of my political heros because... he treated his political opponents with respect.  He was a man of integrity and character... a class act.

In the Epistle of James, we are warned about the power of the tongue and its ability to be used for both good and bad.  "But no man can tame the tongue.  It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not to be so" (James 3: 8-10, NKJV).  Today, as we speak our minds and participate in the political dialog, let's present ourselves in an honorable way and "watch our tongue".