Civility in debating political views and "my" Letter to the Editor

Posted By on May 12, 2021

In February 2021, I mentioned The Hustings news website which highlighted how much I appreciated that in America we can hold different political views and civilly debate issues without fear of government retribution (First Amendment). UnfortunatelyMrTIpitythefool in the past decade or so our differences have become so divisive and derisive, that I’m not sure that is completely true anymore. Extremist on both the right and left have dug in and created a culture of zero tolerance for those who disagree or hold different political philosophies.

Recently it seems there are fewer and fewer safe venues where people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions without putting ones head on the chopping block, risking violence, being harshly graded if a student, denied acceptance to a college or losing ones job. Nowadays the practice is associated with Wokism and cancel culture. No longer is the cost of voicing an opinion just vocal pushback or vigorous debate from someone with a different opinion, but has become a blood sport practiced with speed of light mob rule efficiency with the intent of silencing opposing views. Social media and live video on every cellphone are contributing to the instant ability to wield hate, embarrass or openly threaten people, their families and jobs … and this works covertly too. It is a way to silence people who would rather avoid confrontation or risk the potential consequences associated with having views that counter those held by vocal and seemingly empowered activists (recently from the political left). It seems a lot of citizens are keeping their heads down and instead just go along to get along.”

As for “safer venues” to read polite debate, share political thought and philosophy … I’ve started to read the L-C-R columns of The Hustings news website, comment with a letter to the thehustingsscreenshot210511editor and have even attended a couple Braver Angels debates on Zoom and conference calls (that they help sponsor). They seem to be able to attract what I refer to as traditional liberals and conservatives who like William F. Buckley of old, enjoy jousting on topics and learning from different points of view.. This focus on the subject matter and not targeted towards other human beings, can and does take much of the sting and inflammatory anger out of a debate and is a better way to discuss and “in my opinion” make our melting pot a better country.

I’ve always enjoyed hearing views that challenge mine, so I regularly seek news from as many sources as I can “tolerate.” I used that word because we can all list the political operatives and talking heads who, no matter which side of the political spectrum we are on, we can’t tolerate for long. Last year my friend Jeff talked me into listening to the BBC as a way to gain an outside perspective on US news. I’ve always listened to NPR, CNBC and read some of the NYTimes and Washington Post for my liberal national exposure and of course Fox News and Fox Business for a lean to the right angle … but not since my shortwave radio days did I listen to other English speaking foreign news programs. 

The crux of this post is that The Hustings placed my comment as a Letter to the Editor in the “right leaning” column on their website last week – the topic had to do with “debating the practice of ‘Earmarks’ by Congress.” My letter is below:

Herewith, a reader’s comments on our most recent home page debate, “With its New Policy on Earmarks, Congress Goes Back to the Future,” posted Friday, May 7. To read the three columns on the subject, scroll down using the vertical track bar on the far right.

Loved the added lesson. (“With Its New Policy on Earmarks, Congress Goes Back to the Future,” by Charles Dervarics, with left column by Keith Tipton and right column by Stephen Macaulay, home page debate.)

I enjoyed and saw all three columns as logical and fair (which is unusual for me), but as a citizen who prefers a smaller federal government and theorizes that taxing and spending is better when it is managed closer to the people on the state and city or local levels.

The practice of earmarking has never been popular with most voters and I applaud any attempt to make them transparent, even if I’m skeptical that politicians want to give up bringing home pork. I’m also sympathetic to smaller states by population, with lower incomes and far more square miles to manage; they do need additional resources to maintain, develop and expand their infrastructure, hence earmarking provides a way for them to trade votes for funding. On the other hand, it is not all that difficult for all but the naïve to see why politicians want more money and include earmarks for their constituents in every bill.

Personally, I see the only way to correct the abuse and waste associated with earmarks is to reduce the size of the federal government and amount of money it controls. Just as with our own budgets, when we have less, it will be spent on the most essential needs before our wants … and in the case of our federal government, a smaller take from citizens might be used more efficiently (I’ve yet to see government spend efficiently). As the federal government has grown, it has expanded and often supplanted personal responsibility and very efficient volunteer efforts (I grew up in a small town and miss how my mom’s generation ran local charities).

Political idealogues have forever debated “how big” the role of the federal government should be, but I personally prefer we move closer to James Madison and how he defined the concept of federalism – “The powers delegated … to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite” … a return to that would curtail wasteful earmarking.

— Rich Corbett, Cincinnati

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Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
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