January 11, 2011

DARKNESS AT THE EDGE OF CLOWNS:

Politics of a shooting prompts search for civility (ADAM GELLER, 1/11/10, The Associated Press)

The letter, to three members of Congress, reads like a eulogy to civility in U.S. politics, its message underscored by the nearly complete absence of mourners.

"You three were alone in pledging to be civil," writes the founder of a campaign that last year asked every senator, representative and all the nation's governors to sign a promise to treat their adversaries with simple respect. "I must admit to scratching my head as to why only three members of Congress, and no governors, would agree to what I believe is a rather low bar."

The Jan. 3 letter disbanding the Civility Project - led by a conservative Republican public relations executive and a liberal Democratic lobbyist - went out five days before the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others spurred soul-searching about a decline in the nation's political discourse and its potential dangers.

There is, as yet, no evidence that the gunman was motivated by a vicious turn in American politics.

Still, the storm of anti-rhetoric rhetoric unleashed by the rampage raises a troubling question: If Americans are so concerned that civility has been bled from politics, why has it taken this tragedy for a message some have long tried to deliver to arrive?

Maybe it's because, in one man's unhinged act, we fear the recognition of something larger - and decidedly darker - about ourselves.



Posted by Orrin Judd at January 11, 2011 3:38 PM
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