Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Civility or Civic Duty

Last week the country looked on as President Obama addressed a Joint Session of Congress about Health Care reform in the United States.  During that address a representative from South Carolina, Joe Wilson shouted out "You Lie!" immediately following a statement by the President which claimed the reforms that he has proposed would not cover illegal aliens.

Whether or not the claim by the President is true is another matter altogether.  A matter that to be decided would require a deeper understanding of every bill and modification to said bills. It might even require the ability to read the minds of each legistater in Washington.  There has been some discussion that while not specifically included in the bill, provisions to enforce this claim (policing or auditing of health care spending to ensure no illegal aliens get benefits) have been struck down by other committees in the House.  The devil is always in the details.

All that said, is the outburst of Rep. Joe Wilson necessarily wrong?  Was it uncivil?  Was it a violation of House rules?  There have been several editorials written, citing even more recent events such as Kanye West's interruption of Taylor Swift's award at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards and Serena Williams lashing out at a line judge at the US Open.  Brad Hirschfield wrote in the Washington Post today:

Over the past seven days, we have been treated to obnoxious outbursts by leading figures not only in politics, but in sports and pop culture as well. In addition to the heckle heard round the world issued by Rep. Wilson, there was the verbal attack launched by Serena Williams against a line judge at the U.S. Open, and the boorish behavior displayed by rapper and music producer Kanye West when he grabbed the microphone from award winner Taylor Swift at MTV's Video Music Awards.

All of these stories are rooted in the same basic fact: speakers who think it's all about them. And if it isn't about them, they seem to think it must be about some other individual who is even more important than they are. Continued Here

If people think Wilson's speaking out was about himself, or President Obama, they are delerious.  Wilson's "heckle" was about the people of South Caroline he represents.  It's about what he knows to be true and what he heard the most powerful man in the world say on national televistion in front of a Joint Session of Congress.  It was about Civic Duty, standing up for truth, and standing up for what is right.

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times wrote the following:

When House Democrats, and a handful of Republicans, reprimanded the congressman on Tuesday evening for refusing to apologize to his colleagues for breaking the rules, it was quite a wonderful way to improve America.

It was a rare triumph for civility in a country that seems to have lost all sense of it — from music arenas to tennis courts to political gatherings to hallowed halls — and a ratification of an institution that has relied on strict codes of conduct for two centuries to prevent a breakdown of order.
Continued here.

One must wonder what Ms. Dowd would write about the members of the Boston Tea Party?  The authors of The Declaration of Independence?  Were those acts of civility?  Or Civic Duty?  Would it have been better for Mr. Wilson to write his comment "You Lie!" down on a peice of scroll, put it in an evelope, affix a wax seal and deliver it to the White House personally?  What was wrong about what he said exactly?  Was it the fact that it was an outburst?  Or was it that he essentially called the President a lair?

Questioning authority should never be compared to threatening a Line Judge at the US Open or interrupting some starlets award acceptance speech. To do so is laughable, and inexcuseable.  Mr. Wilson knows the stakes.  He may or may not get re-elected for what he did.  The people of South Carolina can decide that.  Joe Wilson did what he thought was right out of a compulsion of Civic Duty...  A compulsion that the rest of this country lacks in great numbers.

1 comment:

ljkc said...

Freedom of speech can still be done w/tact & manners - lack of mutual respect is the irritant ;)