Politics can get rough. When issues take center stage that we feel very emotional over there is a desire to make our points more forcefully. We ratchet up the volume, and the rhetoric can get heated. And yet I like to think that our better angels at some point intervene and take charge. At times on Wednesday afternoon that did not happen.
I must say that I was uncomfortable at times Wednesday afternoon by the lack of civility shown by some of those participating in the rally over Wisconsin’s state budget. And since I was one of those in favor of passing the budget, my contact was with public employees that ringed the ‘anti-tax crowd’ on the Statehouse grounds. What I saw and heard at times was hard to take.
Prior to the event starting, Owen Robinson, a well-known conservative blogger was in the area dominated by public employees. I went up and introduced myself and we chatted a minute about blogging, and the perfect weather that allowed us all to enjoy the rally. It was then that someone made a remark about the way he was dressed, and ended it with a sexual remark that was uncalled for.
Now Owen and I see the world through very different perspectives. We agreed on the weather, but had the conversation turned to the topic of the rally would have found much to disagree over. And that is fine. People can agree to disagree. But for someone in the crowd to throw out a horrid comment based on the fact Robinson had different views on the tax issue is absurd. Frankly, I was embarrassed to be standing there at that moment.
The worst example of boorish behavior however was at the end of the rally when those who were ‘anti-tax’ needed to leave the grounds. Some public employees made a limited pathway that required people to walk through a series of verbal insults, badgering, and foul language. As I was standing not far from the outer sidewalks at this time I looked at the faces of those leaving. Some were good-natured about the experience, but some looked very upset, and even hurt. One lady who made eye contact with me seemed on the verge of crying.
This is NOT how we win friends and score points. This is not how the issues of the day should be addressed. I am as political and feisty on the issues of the day as anyone. I love to debate. I love to rant with my friends. But there comes a time when civil discourse and actions need to trump our anger.
There is also that little thing called ‘democracy’ that involves free speech and association. The airing of opposing ideas by both sides at the Statehouse was refreshing to see and hear on Wednesday. It was good for both sides to unleash their opinions. But no one should suffer insults because their ideas differed from others.
The vast majority of the public employees were respectful while remaining committed to their cause. It was the handful of others that made an otherwise sunny day less pleasant.