Civility and Dissent

In her weblog, Kathryn Cramer discusses this column by Paul Krugman about civility and dissent. She makes a very canny point, when she says:

The Right’s claims that the Left is being uncivil are mostly overblown. Even Al Franken is making a satirical point by reflecting back the Right’s strident tone ironically. The Right — through the civility discussion — attempts to redefine politeness in such a way that dissent is by definition uncivil.

I agree with this. I’m torn between wishing there were more effective attack dogs coming from the left (here’s an old discussion about that) and thinking that elevating the discourse and taking the high road is the way to go. The problem with the latter is that it generally tends to be ineffective, which is why most political campaigns – even ones that begin civilly – end up as jello wrestling fiascos. I will say that I was pretty proud of the slate of the Democratic candidates at the debate the other night. There were minor skirmishes here and there but the bulk of the heat was directed in the right place, at the current administration and their horrible failed policies in every possible area. I hope to see the Democrats continue this – by focusing on the fact that every one of them would be better for America than Bush and Cheney, I think they will all benefit more than they can by attempting to tear each other apart. It’s the prisoner’s dilemma. If you are the only one going negative, you benefit above your rivals. If everyone does, everyone suffers.

I’m responding to this absurd notion that criticizing our current state of affairs is impolite and unpatriotic in the only reasonable way possible. I recognize that it is complete bullshit, I refuse to act any differently, and every day in every way I can fight this notion. Standing up for what you think right and true is not unpatriotic, it is the very definition of patriotism. Anyone that tells you any different has no regard for the values on which this country was founded.