Sunday, March 10, 2013

Civil Debate and Discourse: The Lost Art in America

Last Thursday on my radio show I began the program with a guest, Drew Remenda, (of all people), the San Jose Sharks terrific color analyst on cable, (CSN California).

I mention, "of all people", because Remenda appeared on the program to talk hockey at about the time many thousands of mourners were gathering inside the HP Pavilion for a memorial service honoring the two fallen Santa Cruz Police officers that were ambushed a few weeks back.

I had debated whether or not it was appropriate to have on a sports person in light of what was taking place in the very building where Drew did the interview. Talk about surreal. I finally relented and decided the interview would proceed. I'm glad we talked.

The first ten minutes were devoted to the memorial service; the tragic events that led to the officers' demise. Remenda talked about his kids asking him "what's going on there in, (San Jose)?", and how he broke the news that two police officers were shot and killed and were being memorialized.

Remenda is a Canadian. Outside of a few exceptions, there's not a lot of gun-related homicides in Canada. Knifes, yes, as he pointed out, but guns, not so much. I made it a point not to get bogged down in a gun-control discussion because it wasn't the time nor the place but Remenda, again, of all people, offered the idea of how difficult it is in our country to simply sit down and talk about a very serious issue. That the concept of a reasonable dialogue and national town-hall discussion(s) dealing with something so profound, so immensely on the mind and conscience of nearly all Americans was so difficult to take place.

I agree with Drew. Furthermore, the idea that collectively, we all are unwilling, or simply incapable of having a reasonable dialogue without any shouting, any ad-hominem attacks speaks volumes about our society as a whole. There's several reasons for this predicament we're in; part of it deals with the present polarization of the country; the us vs. them mentality that has been cemented by the cable channels and reinforced by their amen corner. What is a decidedly gray area, (like gun-control), has been turned into a black and white issue with each side dug in and devoid of the prospect of a fairly ordinary, polite discussion. It's a shame we can't even agree to simply talk. And when we do talk, inevitably it gets so heated and personal we're unable or unwilling to respect the other side's feelings and opinions.

That's rather sad if you ask me.

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  1. As an independent, i blame the infringement party more than the gop, and the electoral college model. Legalized stealing(taxes) to support socialist agendas, over regulation( of citizens, not wall street or corps), dumb laws, affirmative action(reverse descrimination with piss poor results), anti 2nd ammendment proposals that would produce unintended(or intended consequences)....all while taking the same money corporate money that the gop folks get critisized for.

    The economy stinks and we need a recovery pres, not a reformer. BHO would have more political clout to address the social issues had he first addressed the economic issues.

    I feel sorry for a kid born today.

  2. What I wonder is,is it appropriate to have these mega funerals for police officers? Police from all over the state,the Governor,the streets blocked off for miles. And you realize its politics and money. The police WANT you to know one theirs has died by the hand of a two bit crook. Compare that to the death of a soldier who dies defending in war. The military and local governments prefer to not make a spectacle. The Governor doesn't show up for them.

  3. Writer at 12.12 has a point I had not considered. There are usually a lot of streets blocked off, there often is a big shake up to the routines of any neighborhoods in the area of the police funeral. There are collateral consequences to the pageantry of these ceremonies. That pageantry is noted, but then I think of how we depend on these officers for protection or for guidance. The police are sort of like our very own neighborhood warriors, our Seals on speed-dial.
    I know I could not do their work, mostly because I'm getting old I have worn out parts, no matter how often I go to 24hr fitness (larkspur). I have been through private trials of tension and uncertainty, but nothing to compare to the life or death scale of events that officers may exprnce any day at any time. I am not presently possessed with that special brand of mental toughness a good officer needs. I truly believe that if I had to become that way to survive, then, yes, I could become more prepared and omniscient. I recall my Karate instruction from years back. At a certain point, we were trained to take on any challenger coming at us from any direction. I liked it. When learning how to deal with danger is disguised as a game, I enjoyed being one of the surviors, who chose fight over flight. But then this was Karate practice at Northgate Mall, with a bunch of College kids. It wasn't the real deal. We need a group of people who have been trained to deal with adversity, all the while living amongst us as part of the community.
    I think we do need these police funerals publicized to remind us citizens of sacrifice.

    The Canadian man is quite sensible and sensitive, to use that public police funeral as a teaching moment for his children.
    He is correct, they have their share of tragedies, only most involve knives or homemade bombs, not guns. If someone is hateful or rotten enough to wish unjustified injury on his neighbor, he will find a way to do it. I'm a defender of the 2nd Ammendment, absolutely. In fact just two weeks ago, I purchased my very first shotgun from Big 5. I'm as happy as a clam, (a clam with a shotgun). The Big 5 people were helpful, answered all my silly questions without putting me down for being a 50 something novice. It matters how they dress too. I was glad the boys at Big 5 wore dress shirts with ties and in conservative colors. All this matters to someone who needs reassurance. I think the most firey arguments fly in the BIG GUN DEBATES when one side will blame the motives of the other side. Or when one side feels the others are not willing to change fast enough to suit what the latest trend seems to expect and demand. Most americans become reflexively contrary when someone stamps their proverbial foot and makes clear cut demands.

  4. At 12:12, I couldn't agree more! It was very sad that these officers died, but where is the outrage when our men and women in uniform lose their lives or at the very least, serve their country and risk their lives?

    When my Marine nephew returned from the Middle East last December, he was greeted by only five people. He was very disappointed, as was I.

    1. Their is a police union that donates heavily to politicians- especially the Governor. Their sadly is no soldiers union and they get the minimum send off that pays for them....

    2. Fair and BalancedMarch 10, 2013 at 7:53 PM

      It is disappointing that the commenters here are often so narrow-minded and quick to make foolish claims blaming politicians or some other institutional villains for anything that inconveniences them.

      It's all about the importance of symbolism and paying respect. Police and fire-people accept a job where they risk their lives to provide safety for the rest of us. When they are senselessly killed in the line of duty, it offends all us, all members of society. So we pay respect symbolically by way of ceremony. It's a way to acknowledge that we value their service and sacrifice.

      Surely soldier's lives are equally valuable but the reality is that it's impossible to make a comparable gesture for each soldier's death. No, it's not fair but it doesn't mean that we as a society should abandon symbolic expressions that reflect values that are important to us.

    3. Respectful yes,but Police funerals are much more then that. You say too many soldiers die to honor?. Think about that. It's part of why in the Vietnam years magazines and newspapers had photos of dead soldiers and body bags. In the middle east where we have fought nearly non stop since 1991,it was illegal until a few years ago to take a photo of a body bag or even a closed coffin of a soldier. The government learned how to sanitize war. And the media this time obeyed.
      Politics are at work even for the dead.

    4. No, what I said was that so many soldiers die that it's not practical to conduct major observances for each death, even though their lives are no less valuable than any others.

      It's unfortunate that the government sanitizes war to make it easier for the public to overlook the reality and horror of war. Nonetheless, I don't see anything wrong with honoring heroic police who gave their lives in the line of duty.

  5. "the us vs. them mentality that has been cemented by the cable channels and reinforced by their amen corner"

    Right, Rich, and the White House is so transparent and inclusive, it's just amazing! The rot starts from the top.

  6. Rich, perhaps we could have a reasonable conversation about this issue if both sides would put all of their cards on the table. But we know that the gun control crowd wants to take all guns away from the average citizen. They use the process of gradualization. Taking a little bit here and there, until there's nothing left. In John Lott's new book, he discusses an honest conversation he had years ago with Barack Obama when they both taught at the University of Chicago. Obama was not yet in electoral politics and he and Lott were having a conversation about guns and Barack Obama told John Lott "I don't believe people should be able to own hand guns". At the time that Obama made the statement to Lott he did not know Lott's last name, he only knew him as "John". Once he found out John's last name, he avoided discussing guns or any other issues with him from that point forward.

    I believe the President is not truthful when he discusses gun control and says he believes in the 2nd Amendment. I think the only thing he really believes in is saying whatever he needs to say at the moment in order to get the target audience to buy what he's selling. You may disagree with John Lott's conclusion about a number of issues, but I don't believe the man lies.

    1. John Lott doesn't have to lie...he has "Mary Rosh" do it for him.

    2. 9:38 - What an asinine response. You have nothing else to offer so come up with "Mary Rosh"? You're a perfect example of why it's difficult to have an honest conversation about important issues. Thanks for contributing. Not.

  7. You, Rich, should quit or be fired for stupidity. Shame you didn't broadcast the memorial service instead, as you should have. What a goofball, made of bad judgement (continually) on a bad topic for the day (hockey.) You should just turn in your notice now. I'll add this to my list on Monday to MZ and Ms. Chalmers.

    1. KSCO, the sister station to KOMY provided full coverage of the memorial service, (as they should have). I had also talked extensively about the tragic events in Santa Cruz and offered my prayers on the show both the day of the service and before. I'm sorry if you were offended but I felt Drew Remenda provided a nice tribute and added some necessary and solid content about what was taking place.

  8. 8:22
    You begin with saying "Perhaps we could have a reasonable conversation..."

    But then you immediately add "...But we know that the gun control crowd wants to take all guns away from the average citizen."

    DUDE-you just rendered your initial sentence moot.
    Too bad--because your first sentence had SO much promise.

  9. Rich...this was an excellent post and raised a lot of interesting reaction from people on different sides of issues.

    The gun control issue will always be a sticky one, because the gun culture has unfortunately been a part of our society since we kicked out the British out of this country.

    I think also, because people who have guns around their house usually have grown up with them, they think it's no big deal having weapons in their homes that can kill anyone.

    Other folks have grown up in homes where the parents wouldn't consider buying or even learning how to use any gun. They feel this sick attachment and fascination with firearms is the attribute, (if that's the proper usage of that word, and I don't think it is!) of a sick and dysfunctional society.

    So how do the two sides find middle ground? Well, as one of your readers pointed out in an earlier post Rich, if the President doesn't have the guts to stand up to the NRA (and you can't really blame him, because the conservatives are doing everything they can to get him on the run), who does?

  10. Rich, you're a great one for - Do as I say, not as I do.

    How do you expect others to engage in "civil discourse" when you only do so occasionally?

  11. I feel I have engaged in both civil and uncivil discourses, both which have existed since as far back as I can remember. This country isn't designed for middle ground anymore because middle ground doesn't get politicians and lobbyists paid off. - DW