Friday, April 09, 2004

I hate to be around mean spirited people. Even if I don't get drawn into their petty criticisms of people we know, they make me feel sour just because I have to put up with them. They bring out the worst in me. The same is true on a national scale. Every once in a while I hear a little homily on, say, NPR warning liberals not to be so partisan. I hoot in derision over the injustice of US being lectured on that subject. Liberals are the ones who put up with lies and lying liars. We hear BIG lies: Saddam was getting yellowcake from Nigeria. We hear LITTLE lies: The Clinton people trashed the White House before they left. We get stonewalled. Jim Jeffords's complaint in the paper yesterday was typical. For the past three years, he says he's "'been stonewalled in getting information from the EPA. . . . I have bent over backwards to try to accommodate the EPA, but my patience is now worn out. I had hoped that we could put the posturing aside . . . .'" He's just facing the same old stuff and nonsense we expect from Republicans.

And occasionally, they let their inner sneer out into the limelight. (Well, okay, Cheney's sneer is out there all the time.) But yesterday Jason Crowell, the Republican leader of our state senate, gave the Dems a Bronx cheer as they tried to discuss the budget. At least Bill McClellan's column in this morning's Post-Dispatch took him to task for it. McClellan bemoans the current state of affairs: "Civility is as outdated as typewriters."

McClellan went after the Republicans on this issue, but Dems also came in for a warning about civility. "Last week, Air America Radio, the left's answer to Rush Limbaugh et al. came on line. Ridicule, scorn, contempt and name-calling will now be coming from both sides of the aisle." Actually, he's right. Not about Franken and Garofalo. Their bias is obvious, but their tone is reasonable. With all due respect to Lee, though, I have to say that Randi Rhodes is well informed but shrill.

I've decided to consider the warnings issued to liberals about civility as an implicit compliment. Their subtext is "We expect that childishness and hatefulness from Republicans. But liberals have always been grownups." The question is how do we effectively fight meanspirited tactics and lies without letting them bring out the worst in us?


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