Civil Discourse

The war between left and right on social issues is fascinating to behold.  The debate sometimes descends to ridiculous absurdities as each side attempts to win its point. There are vast areas of disagreement, and the contention is often fierce.  The debaters, especially those cloaked in anonymity, do not hesitate to use lies, calumny, and threats in their determination to intimidate or destroy their opposition.

Nothing arouses more heated rhetoric than the subject of abortion.  In 1973 the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of Roe v Wade.  Many legal scholars who have studied that decision think it was poorly reasoned and badly written. Nevertheless, once issued, it became the law of the land, and it has stirred vigorous debate and resistance ever since.

As one example of the back and forth on abortion, I cite a brief exchange that I engaged in some years ago.  In response to a decision by the United States House of Representative to continue banning the use of federal funding for Medicaid abortions, The Sun (Baltimore) published a lead editorial that stated that the Federal government was perpetuating a double standard by “telling women that they can only get an abortion if they are not poor enough to require taxpayer assistance.”

In response, I wrote the following in a letter to the editor: 

“Let us assume, for a moment, that the Maryland legislature decided to eliminate laws against prostitution.  To many of our citizens, this would be a deeply troubling decision, a moral offense, yet the proponents of such a move could make logical arguments about ‘you can’t legislate morality’; ‘it’s a victimless crime,’ etc.  And though such a decision would stir up powerful opposition, it’s just possible that it might stand.  After all, it happened in Nevada.

“Let us now take this one step further and assume that the state then decided to operate its own houses of prostitution.  Proponents could point  out that this action would deny ownership of these businesses to society’s more unsavory elements (the Mob), the state could ensure that the prostitutes were healthy (board certified), special rates (or ‘love stamps’) might be made available to economically disadvantaged patrons, and last (but not least) it would be an excellent money-making enterprise as well as being the means of providing tourist attractions unmatched on the east coast of the United States.

“Abortion (despite the moral questions associated with it) has already been legalized by the high court of our land, and that unhappy court decision (with its still to be defined limits) has evidently been accepted (if not approved) by a majority of our citizens.  But going from legalization to federal funding of abortion would be almost like a leap from legalized prostitution to state operated bordellos — the first is a moral offense, the second an abomination.  It would make every federal taxpayer a collaborator in ‘the slaughter of the innocents’.”

I am sure that most of you will agree that the above represents a relatively mild exchange on a very contentious topic.  Such civility is no longer the norm. The recent assault on Brett Kavanaugh is an example of the viciousness that is more often aroused by the slightest hint of a threat to women’s right to choose. Hysterical feminists treated Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings as being equivalent to a cultural Armageddon.

That is utter nonsense!

Judge Kavanaugh has never stated his opposition to Roe v Wade or any intention to overturn that decision.  His judicial record suggests that he is a very thoughtful, sensitive man who is well aware of the potential societal effects of any Supreme Court reversal.  I doubt that Roe v Wade is in any serious danger, and the women of America have far too much political clout to allow men to make them into 21st century handmaidens.

Why should you use lies and invective to assault your cultural adversaries?  They have the same right of opinion that you do, and they are free to express it.  When, without proof, you attack their integrity you are doing a disservice to civil discourse.  When you anonymously resort to calumny and vitriol you are engaging in the worst sort of behavior. The English language is the richest language in the world.  There are thousands of words available for the exchange of ideas with a political adversary.  If you resort to insults instead of reason, it would appear that you either lost the debate or deserve the insults you heap upon your opponent.

The hearing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee was a travesty and an embarrassment to the United States Congress.

Use more civility and restraint in these on-going political debates.  Employ logic and good sense.  Treat your opponents as being persons of honor, and perhaps they will afford you the same level of respect.     

 

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