Other Voices: Politicians need to start representing us | TheUnion.com

Other Voices: Politicians need to start representing us

Are you wondering if political debates can ever be civil?

Name-calling, trading insults, and character assassination seem to be the norm. When this behavior is substituted for thoughtful and respectful discussion it shortchanges both you and me as taxpayers. It does not help when either party refuses to come to the table for discussions on important issues and when their main concern is to go one up on “the name-calling game” to gain media attention.

Accepting this type of behavior prevents or slows progress on things such as Social Security reforms, tax reforms, security issues and environmental issues.

Politicians have two main objectives: Raise their pay and gain re-election. Many actions taken to accomplish these two main objectives might be questioned. Has money from special interest groups or power brokers built an unholy alliance?

In many cases it seems that they feel the “end” justifies the “means.” This attitude can lead to some legal involvements but in many cases it is either forgiven or ignored.

The problem might be solved if special-interest money were eliminated from the election process. In this case, candidates would have a limited time in which to campaign and all candidates would be strictly limited in the total money they could receive. Is a level playing field in our election process too extreme?

Waste seems to grow proportionately to our growth in government. Both parties seem to agree on “pork” and fail to take reasonable steps to control spending. Mandated programs grow with annual increases that are automatic. Do we have the oversight in place to curb these excesses or even question them? When a senator wants to build a bridge to nowhere, it is approved; but when an uproar is made, the bridge may not be built but the money is still granted.

Where can we start?

Perhaps we should incorporate some of the ” Quaker Teachings” in our approach to groups that have divergent views.

“Quakers believe in listening with reflective silence and respect for a marketplace of ideas.”

This does not mean that they accept quietly all ideas, but it does mean they respect freedom of speech and the responsibility that goes with it. Listening without ridicule, staying on course with facts, and seeking means to resolve issues in a meaningful way are important aspects of governing.

Today we have demonstrations at our universities that suppress ideas. Speakers on campus have been subjected to “pie in the face attacks,” as well as rowdy interruptions.

Does this send the right message? Is it part of a cultural change?

Our First Amendment rights guarantee freedom of speech, but they don’t guarantee anyone will listen. If you disagree with what someone states, interfering with their statement is not the right response. The first responsibility is to listen and then make your response.

Divergent statements if civil, respectful and truthful can lead to resolving key issues.

Name-calling, manipulation of facts and emotional responses tend to lead to an atmosphere of isolation by all parties. We don’t deserve this!

Civility and divergent ideas might help us grow! Name-calling and lack of respect doesn’t set this stage.

Not all politicians are alike and some don’t vote along strict party lines.

The Democrats, Independents, and Republicans that negotiated a compromise on the use of the “filibuster” with regard to Supreme Court nominations showed their mettle. Governing is not one way and is based on a reasonable approach that listens and then acts.

Politicizing “Katrina” and “Our war in Iraq” is unfortunate and not worthy of either party. Dissent is fine but a reasonable alternative and plan is expected, not name-calling. How many of us wish that our representatives, either conservative or liberal, would phrase their response in a way that is reasonable and can be respected? Statesmanship appears to be a lost art in most cases.

Responsibilities that should be shared by all citizens are the rights of respectful dissent and to speak the truth. It appears that both of these responsibilities are hard when we have divergent views and civility is lost in the debate.

Isn’t it time to insist that our representatives refrain from posturing and work on solving some issues that are of interest to all of us?

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