Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A plea for civility -- it's OK to doubt

So I just need to vent a frustration I've been feeling about comments that people leave on people's blogs and on other sites (like The New York Times) that are simply rude, hostile, vicious, unkind, nasty, insulting, and just plain mean. And the recent spate of riotous behavior at Town Hall Meetings also makes me want to tear my hair out (especially when people shout unhelpful/inaccurate statements like "Keep the government out of medicare!"--REALLY??? Keep the government out of a U.S. government sponsored and funded program? O.K. . . .)

I'm sure that any regular readers of this blog are not the people who write comments that shock and appall me with their rudeness nor are any of you screaming at elected officials and fellow citizens at Town Hall meetings. And I'm not saying that those who are doing all the screaming are the same one's carrying on about Medicaid being divorced from the government. Health care is a very important and heated issue that has become a lightening rod.

However...I DO believe that the incivility I've seen on the blogosphere and in these Town Hall meeting and Tea Bag parties echo rhetoric found on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh's show--which is a rhetoric that doesn't allow for any true dialogue or meaningful discussion. It's just about you wanting to be right. Maybe some would argue that Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman do the same thing or that Lefty liberals like myself also want to just "be right" all the time.

But honestly, I have doubt. I know that the world is much grayer and fuzzier than I would like it to be. I wish I could be absolutely certain all of the time--about when we should withdraw from Iraq and how. About how to balance the state budget--which programs to cut and to keep. About the existence of God or any other higher spiritual power and presence. I am not certain about any of these things. I have doubt.

And apparently having doubt may be one way to ensure civility. On the Diane Rehm show today her guest, Professor Peter Berger of Boston University spoke about doubt as a means to ensure civil discourse (he is co-author with Anton Zijderveld of the book In Praise of Doubt: How to Have Convictions without Becoming a Fanatic). And listening to Professor Berger talk about doubt as being a potentially productive means of engaging rather than a debilitating or violent one was really useful. Ultimately I hope it will help us, as a society and a culture, to achieve civility.

1 comment:

Tami said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I downloaded this to my Kindle as soon as I read your post.