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Election Issues: Can we turn toward civility?

Submitted by on Thursday, 16 October 2008 No Comment

Barack Obama

I watched last night’s debate having made up my mind long ago about my vote for president and doubting anyone would say about the issues that would change that.

It’s always that way with many voters this late in the election cycle, but debates aren’t aimed at us. They’re aimed in the crucial “undecideds.”

I moved out of that category long ago. I’ve spent months studying Barack Obama and John McCain’s positions, and I’ve found Obama’s to be well-thought out and thorough, though some of his proposals about paying for them are a little thin.

Even if I hadn’t been leaning toward Obama, he would have won me over last night, not with anything he said about economics or education, but by addressing what I think is the country’s biggest challenge. It’s a problem far bigger than the federal budget or the foreclosure crisis.

“What is important is making sure that we disagree without being disagreeable. And it means that we can have tough, vigorous debates around issues. What we can’t do, I think, is try to characterize each other as bad people. And that has been a culture in Washington that has been taking place for too long. And I think…”

McCain interrupted then — the sixth time he butted in during that exchange according to the transcript. Even after Obama asked moderator Bob Schieffer, “Let me complete my response.”

I will be the first to admit having fought the battle of butting in. I’ve done better since Big Guy’s learned to talk and I hear how obnoxious it is and how rude it appears even when not intended that way.

But how am I supposed to teach a 5-year-old, who was watching the debate with me between arguing with his brother over Chutes and Ladders, that interrupting is rude when The Cain keeps doing it to The Bomber?

How am I supposed to help the wee folk stop calling names when McCain’s second accuses Obama of “palling around with terrorists.

Stripped to its basic level, that accusation is merely “poopyhead” and “stoopit” disguised as grown-up talk. Just as children aren’t really adults when they play in big-people clothes, dressing up insults doesn’t change what they are.

And I’ve had it. I’ve had it with name-calling in my house and in the U.S. House. And the Senate. And the White House.

Not that either party has a monopoly on bad behavior. I’ve unhesitatingly voted against my political leanings when it’s been a face-off between mud and the high road. I had deep philosophical differences with my favorite all-time politician, but she’s such a classy human being that if she decided to run again tomorrow, I’d stay up all night putting up campaign signs if she asked. Or even if she didn’t.

I don’t expect us — any of us — to sit down and settle all our differences over tea and crumpets. And I don’t believe that all differences can, or even should, be settled.

But I believe there is a middle road. Its path is obscured on many of our personal road maps, but it’s there and we must find it. Because we can’t go on the way we have been.

“What is important is making sure that we disagree without being disagreeable.”

That, my friends, is leadership.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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