Wednesday, January 26, 2011


By Tom Kando

Because of the January 8 Tucson massacre, everyone is now advocating - or at least paying lip service to - toning down inflammatory political rhetoric. With this comes political equivocation, buzzwords like “bipartisanship,” “compromise,” “centrism,” “pragmatism,” “national unity.”

Pundits and the media are desperate to appear mature and reasonable, so there is near unanimous agreement:

(1) that the heated rhetoric on the Right by people like Sarah Palin (using crosshair imagery to target legislators) and Michele Bachmann (“I want people to be armed and dangerous”) did NOT cause the Tucson massacre;

(2) that “BOTH sides” of the political spectrum are guilty of inflammatory rhetoric. For example, on the Left, Keith Olberman spoke on national TV of “the worst person in the world” and President Obama once called his opponents “enemies.” So that makes the two sides even;

(3) that both sides should tone down violent and provocative speech, and learn to get along better. For example, Republicans and Democrats sat together during the State of the Union, not on separate sides of the aisle. As the great folk philosopher from South Central LA said, “Can we all get along?”

(See for example Leonard Pitts’s Jan. 23 column in the Miami Herald, or the Jan. 23 articles by Jackie Calmes and David Goldstein in the Sacramento Bee).

So, in the spirit of Rodney King, here is my contribution to Kumbaya:

Nazis, the KKK, the Mafia, AlQaida and Wall Street kleptocrats like Bernie Madoff also make important points. We should not rush to judgment and blindly condemn everything these folks say or do. Even if we disagree with their message and their means (e.g. concentration camps, lynchings, suicide bombings, giga theft), we should not condemn the messengers or their goals. We should try to understand their perspective, and the points they are trying to convey, however clumsily and imperfectly. After all who are we to judge others? Nobody is perfect. Working-class American society has many flaws, too. President Obama’s policies are far from perfect.

Communication and mutual understanding are the key. If the President would just sit down at the negotiating table with all such groups, and try to arrive at mutually acceptable compromises without demonizing his opponents, the world would be a better place.

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