Left of Center: Civil Pittsburgh Op-ed

23 Apr

Today, walking in Lawrenceville, I passed a vehicle that had a bumper sticker that said, “Somewhere in Kenya, a village is missing it’s IDIOT,” bolstering the smiling grin of President Obama.  I want to start off by asking is it proper grammar to have an apostrophe in the word “it’s?” Idiot, Huh? Further, what does that even mean? Does this individual actually think that President Obama is Kenyan? Does he also think that our electoral system would allow a blubbering idiot to be elected to the highest office in the land? I know what you’re all thinking…

Courtesy of Flickr user "Image Editor"

Let me just get to my point: Is it even possible to have a civil conversation?  Civil Pittsburgh often ends its post “These are the issues Pittsburgh.  Let’s have a civil conversation.”  But, are people capable of being civil when it comes to an issue that might be considered partisan? Paul Krugman suggests in his recent article Let’s Not Be Civil, that it’s time to stop being civil and for politicians to take their positions directly to the voters. The partisan right is getting the upper hand while the left, or democrats continue to give up ground. He concludes by saying:

So let’s not be civil. Instead, let’s have a frank discussion of our differences. In particular, if Democrats believe that Republicans are talking cruel nonsense, they should say so — and take their case to the voters.

That’s what democracy should be, right? Civil Pittsburgh prides itself on the idea of bringing individuals together to promote civil rights and civil liberties and in turn hopefully promoting this extremely political and philosophical idea of democracy. That being said, there has been extensive research that concludes that people, when it comes to political decisions, don’t think rationally. In The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of a Nation, author and psychologist Drew Weston talks about how people with preconceived notions are likely to “reason” to emotionally biased decisions. He goes on to say:

The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion…draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises…in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.

When we, as Americans, have politicians serving in the highest posts in our land spewing outright falsities, how are we supposed to come to a reasonable conclusion? Further, for future generations who want to look at “official records” of false statements, they can’t even do that. Why? Because Senators can alter, and rephrase any statement they make on the Senate floor before it goes into the official Congressional record. Well, say what you want and don’t worry about those fact thingies…You can quietly fix that later and whatever you said was not intended to be a factual statement anyway. Well Pittsburgh, can we have a civil conversation? Civil Pittsburghhopes so, and our hope is that individuals exercising their Constitutional rights, will make it easier to be informed about the many issues that affects your everyday life. Thomas Jefferson said, “A well-informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will.” Let’s have a conversation, but let’s also be honest.

Courtesy of Flickr user "Cliff1066"

These are the issues. Let’s have a civil conversation.


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