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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Several posts ago, I posted my opinions on the current violent, aggressive and unpredictable attitude of college football players. I have also blogged about Nancy Pelosi and some of her terribly unattractive, basically crude statements about politicians. Then, I posted the information about the health care protest in California that resulted in a fight causing a man to have his finger bitten off. Now, comes word of Joe Wilson, GOP congressman from South Carolina, and his extremely inappropriate remarks during President Obama's health care address to Congress on Wednesday night. The outburst came when President Obama denied that proposed health care legislation would provide free health coverage for illegal immigrants. Immediately, Wilson shouted, "You lie!" President Obama, meanwhile, looked toward the outburst and replied, "That's not true" before going on with his speech.

The agitated Wilson appeared to consult his Blackberry for much of the rest of Obama's speech. He shook his head defiantly after several of the President's statements. When Obama finished, Wilson bolted from the chamber.

And, Wilson's shout wasn't the only demonstration of displeasure that Republicans made during the speech. Representative Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, wore a sign around his neck that said, "What bill?" And when Obama asked Republicans to share their ideas to overhaul health care, a small group raised up a stack of papers above their heads. The Washington Post reports, "There was booing from House Republicans when the President caricatured a conservative argument by saying they would 'leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.' They hissed when he protested their 'scare tactics.' They grumbled as they do in Britain's House of Commons when Obama spoke of the 'blizzard of charges and countercharges.'" ("The Republican Response Arriving a Little Early," September 10 2009) The Post report continues, "And, in truth, there were provocations from the Democratic side. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), sitting on the Republican side, insisted on making a victory sign with his hand and waving it at Obama. Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.), also on the GOP side of the aisle, felt the need to pound his fist in the air and make what looked, awkwardly, like a fascist salute." (September 10 2009) These grown and supposedly respected men acted worse than little children during a first grade-school debate. By the way, does the Congress need to be consulting Blackberries during a Presidential address, especially of this magnitude? Many, in addition to Wilson, were reported to be doing so.

Here is one opinion of the outburst. "Rep. Wilson's behavior tonight exemplifies everything that is wrong in Washington," Democrat Rob Miller said in a statement. "Instead of engaging in childish name-calling and disrespecting our commander-in-chief, Joe Wilson should be working towards a bipartisan solution that makes quality, affordable health care available to each and every South Carolinian." (CNN News, September 10 2009)

Ladies and Gentlemen of Congress, what is your behavior teaching others about insolence and appropriate behavior? A Presidential address is supposed to be a sacred ritual of American democracy. Does Wilson consider his statement can even be seen as a catalyst for Presidential harm? The health issue is a heated topic involving every U.S. citizen's life and pocketbook.

Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank (September 10 2009) reminded, "The national debate, already raw for years, had coarsened over the summer as town hall meetings across the country dissolved into protests about "death panels" and granny-killing. Guns were brought to Obama appearances. A pastor in Arizona said he was praying for Obama to die."

After consulting with Republican congressional leadership, Wilson was told they wanted him to contact the White House and indicate his comments were "inappropriate." Wilson insisted that his outburst was "spontaneous." He did contact the White House.

CNN reports this action was taken: In his statement apologizing for the outburst, Wilson said: "This evening, I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility."

The White House said early Thursday that the president accepted the apology. Some say the matter is not settled and they want a censure. Democrats are walking a fine line in deciding whether to pursue a censure. While some Democrats want to punish Wilson, others are worried the action could distract from the health care reform effort.

Nevertheless, I ask, "Does every nook and cranny of our culture have to contain attitude?" I fear, instead of offering graciousness and cordiality with respect, many prominent people desire control and manipulation at any cost. Their means to any end, just or unjust, is too often soiled with contemptuous epithets and violent, aggressive behaviors. Maybe, if everyone would learn respect and learn to listen effectively, people would discover that they can work out their difficulties for the common good.

Here, from the About.com Secondary Education website, Melissa Kelly gives some keys to active listening:

  1. Look at the person, and suspend other things you are doing.
  2. Listen not merely to the words, but the feeling content.
  3. Be sincerely interested in what the other person is talking about.
  4. Restate what the person said.
  5. Ask clarification questions once in a while.
  6. Be aware of your own feelings and strong opinions.
  7. If you have to state your views, say them only after you have listened.

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