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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

The death of discourse

In Monday's issue of The Spectrum, pro-Palestine activist Ilan Pappe was quoted as saying, "I don't think you can support the state of Israel and be a decent person."
This came as a shock to me. I always thought being a decent person was based on your character and your actions, but if you take Pappe's word for it, all that counts is whether you agree with him.
Of course, divisive quotes like this shouldn't be much of a surprise. I don't know if you've noticed, but the political discourse in this country has been a bit lacking lately.
For evidence of this, all you had to do was turn to CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News to watch coverage of the health care debates. The argument was split into two camps: either you supported health care and you were a socialist, or you were against it and you were just another right-wing nut job.
That's the state of political discourse in America right now. Either you agree with me and you're righteous, or you are against me and you're evil. There doesn't seem to be much of a middle ground.
Granted, this isn't an entirely new development. It's how issues have been divided for decades. Abortion is a fine example of this.
If you're pro-choice, you're called a "baby killer," and if you're anti-abortion, you're accused of being sexist and wanting the government to control women's bodies. Neither side of the abortion debate understands the other, nor do they want to. It's more fun to just lob insults at each other.
The debate over gay marriage isn't much better. Anyone who opposes it publicly is automatically called a bigot and worse. Just ask Carrie Prejean, who faced vicious attacks from Perez Hilton for stating an opinion the opposite of his own.
On the opposite side, the religious right continues to sling arrows at the homosexual community by calling them sinners and sodomites. There's actually a Web site called godhatesfags.com. If that doesn't show how divisive this issue is, I don't know what does.
This problem had been stirring for a while in America, but the volcano of divisive politics didn't truly erupt until Obama became president. Of course, it's not his fault. He's tried mightily to create bipartisanship, but to no avail. We're far too aggressive to listen lately.
The rise of the Tea Party movement was the first indication that things were getting out of hand. Droves of right-wing protestors appeared, calling the president everything from a communist to Hitler to the anti-Christ – all because he wanted to pass a universal health care bill. This is a little extreme, to say the least.
Unfortunately, the liberal response wasn't any better. On Countdown with Keith Olbermann, comedian Janeane Garofalo stated that the Tea Party protesters were there because they hated the idea of a black president. This was a nasty blanket statement, to say the least. In Garofalo's world, Obama is too magical to criticize, so if you don't like him, you probably just hate black people.
It's really shameful the way both sides have been attacking each other lately. The days of intelligent political discussion and agreeing to disagree have gone right out the window. But we need not hate each other just because we hold opposing views. As Dave Mason once sang, "There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys. There's only you and me and we just disagree."
If America can adopt an attitude like that, there's no telling how much progress we can make. If not, we may be stuck in the political gutter for decades to come.

E-mail: jhugar@buffalo.edu


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