The current lack of civility in political discourse is not, as those ignorant of history believe, worse than in former times. Having a congressman yell from the audience during a Presidential address that the President is a liar is less onerous than having one congressman shoot another congressman on the floor of the chamber to resolve a debate, an incident which occurred following the Civil War. Nevertheless, does it really advance the agenda of either the left or the right by engaging in personal attacks on those with whom they disagree? Barry Goldwater once famously opined that extremism in the defense of liberty is no sin. But is it? It seems that what we encounter, particularly in political discourse, is characterized by extremes in thought and action. I think that extremism is based on the idea, implicit in Goldwater’s remark, that if we believe we’re right in our political position, there is no room for debate. This is particularly true on so-called “social issues” like abortion, contraception and freedom of religion. In fact, dogmatic thinking is not thinking at all. It is nothing more than perpetuating blind belief which fosters ignorance and bigotry and gives rise to a lack of civility. Strident protestations peppered with ill tempered slurs on the opposition merely reveal the lack of faith the speaker has in his or her own beliefs. People like Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher would do well to keep that in mind.
You try hard not to do it. You fight it. But inevitably over time it builds and then you finally have to do it. You just have to watch a really horrible movie. So, the other evening, I slunk off to the video room, closed the drapes, locked the door and shamefully took the plunge ( no pun intended ) and watched Two-Headed Shark Attack. It’s interesting that in the old days, you would have [insert name of big studio] doing a film by [insert name of famous director] starring [insert name of famous actor]. Now, you spend the first five minutes or more of a film watching a litany of strange organizations sponsoring a film in the apparent hope that by throwing a minimal amount of money in the pot, they’ll make a return on their investment. Of course, when the only “name” among the cast is Carmen Electra (who?), you know you’re headed for the deep six. Carmen’s best scene is where she lies squirming on the deck of the sinking yacht rubbing oil on her bikini clad body. She does get to deliver some telling dialogue when she yells at the usual bevy of teenie victims to “Get out of the water!” When the survivors make it to a small atoll, realizing that even two-headed sharks have difficulty attacking scantily clad women on land, the writers of this epic conveniently have the atoll sinking into the sea. We even polish off a couple with a Tsunami that suddenly appears with no explanation. The nice thing about having a shark with two heads is that even after you destroy one of the heads, the shark still has one left to finish off all but the final babe survivor. Bon appetite! Or is that “Bomb appetite?”