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March 31, 2005

Thoughts on Thoughtful Political Discourse

Yesterday, I posted about Ann Coulter's speech at the University of Kansas, and Robert placed a comment. He said:
Don't forget the part where she specifically asked the College Republicans to use physical violence (a request which they of course obeyed) to silence hecklers who were asking her questions about the things she was leaving out about Bush'f [sic] foreign policy!
He included his homepage, Un-apologetic Atheist, and I took a look. Apparently he had been at the speech, and posted a lengthy recap of the evening's events from his perspective.

Obviously, Robert has the right to his opinion. Go ahead and read his post about the evening. However, it's my opinion that many there weren't looking for thoughtful political discourse, but discord.

What were Ann's words exactly?

"Could 10 of the largest College Republicans start walking up and down the isles and start removing anyone shouting? Otherwise, this lecture is over."
According to the article, it seemed as though no one in authority was doing anything to keep the dissenters from disrupting the evening. There are no reports of outright violence, although security did eventually escort a handful of people from the auditorium. And if you are familiar with Coulter, you'll know that much of what she says is sarcastic and tongue in cheek. I really doubt she would have stood by and blessed any fistfights or shoving matches had they occurred.

Ann Coulter (and her way of expressing her opinions) is not for everyone. I know plenty of conservatives who don't like her style and her type of biting humor. That's fine...there are lots of different fish in the sea. And those on the Left sure have no use for her, and she realizes it, but she continues because she is passionate about her beliefs.

My problem with the way the evening went is that, rather than waiting until the prescribed question and answer period, those who didn't like what Coulter had to say were shouting as she spoke in an obvious attempt to quiet her. Coulter is known for never backing down, and any questions put to her at the appropriate time would have been answered. Maybe the questioners wouldn't like the answers, but that's neither here nor there.

If you read the linked article, you will also see that there were protesters outside the auditorium with signs, etcetera. Were they forced to leave? No. As long as any kind of protesters stay within the boundaries of the law, they have every right to congregate and let their opinions be known.

So many people these days are averse to opposing opinions being aired. And it seems that many of them are on the Left. Back in February, former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle had a shoe thrown at him during a debate about Iraq with newly-minted DNC Chair Howard Dean. I don't recall Dean denouncing the shoe thrower, even as he was dragged from the auditorium shouting, "Liar, liar!" And just a couple of days ago, conservative commentator Bill Kristol had a pie thrown in his face during a speech at Earlham College. (To the school's credit, the student will face disciplinary action, even possible expulsion.)

That isn't to say conservatives can't be obnoxious...but I haven't heard much about them throwing pies and shoes at speakers during official forums. And if I did hear about it, I wouldn't support it...I would be denouncing it right here.

Everyone has a right to be heard if they want to be. That's the American way. But heckling, although a long-standing tradition throughout world history, shouldn't be encouraged. Trying to shut someone up because you don't like their opinions just shows you for what you are...immature and closed-minded. And, by shouting down the opposition, you'll have less of a chance to change minds, because most people don't like being bullied and heckled. They'll be less likely to listen to what you have to say.

Without thoughtful political discourse, we might as well be living in a country like Cuba, where you can get tossed in jail for 70 years for disagreeing with dictator...er, President Castro. But that means we all have to agree to let the other side be heard, even if we don't like what's being said. If we wait our turn, politely, then we'll get our chance to rebut. And, perhaps change a mind or two.

Thoughtful political discourse...try it...you may like it!

UPDATE: Pat Buchanan was doused with salad dressing as he spoke at a Western Michigan State University. CBS entitled their report as "A Dressing-Down for Pat Buchanan." Can you imagine the uproar if someone had done that to Howard Dean or Michael Moore?

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