The Urgent Need for Civil Discourse
A few days ago, Mr Gosar, a Republican representative from Arizona, tweeted an anime video of himself ‘attacking a character with the face of Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and swinging a sword at a character with President Biden’s face,’ as reported by the WSJ.
This last Wednesday, the democratic majority in congress voted to censure Mr Gosar and remove him from his two committee assignments.
In his defense, Mr Gosar stated that the video ‘was not intended to depict any harm or violence against anyone portrayed in the anime. The video is truly a symbolic portrayal of a fight over immigration policy.’
The WSJ goes on to say that the congressman deserved ridicule more than censure, since the video was ‘a stupid cartoon, not an actual incitement to violence,’ and that censure ‘should be reserved for serious offenses.’
This is minimizing the transgression and shows to what extent the quality of the political dialogue in our nation has deteriorated. The Journal, along with the entirety of our national media, have played a role in the lowering of standards.
Just where do we think this is going to end if we don’t halt this civic decline? Punching each other out? Is that where we want to go? Does any one side really believe they can out shout the other?
The better integrated people on either side, will eventually sense the limits of aggressive discourse, but the less integrated will not, and it is these people who will end up inflicting physical harm on others. It would be easy then to blame them for not knowing their limits but that won’t do. It should not absolve us from our role in egging them on.
The unrestrained media bashing of each other has consequences. Words and pictures harm. They injure, and those injuries leave scars.
There are many people in our nation who lack the capacity to process psychological discomfort or pain and, feeling threatened, will believe they must lash out at perceived injustices.
These same people look to others, who are better integrated, to find guidance. And that is a responsibility that the educated must not shirk.
It is a fundamental responsibility in a free society. And more so in a free society that as of now, has not dealt fairly with the problems of inequality, racism and immigration.
To remain free requires a continued effort to educate, to develop our intellects and emotional temperance, and so better judge the impact of our words and actions.
At a time when our system is being challenged by China, it is of the greatest importance that we adhere to high standards in how we treat others. Or else we will waste precious time needed to renew ourselves and grow stronger as a nation.
This should be a land where everyone has a chance to be the best they can be. We are not there yet. And if we want to lead the world that is where we must go. Or else we will end up being led by others.
Mr Gosar needs to apologize to both Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and to Mr Biden. He needs to do so publicly. He does not need to agree on anything with either person and he could state so. But the issuing of an apology for his video will be a mark of maturity, of decency, and of taking responsibility for the potential harm that words and graphics may lead to.
Oscar Valdes. Oscarvaldes.net.