Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mobs that are Raucous or Rude

There has been much talk about the health care debate and what is happening at town hall meetings all over this nation. Much has been made of the impropriety of the citizens that have shown up to voice their concerns and opinions. I was going to type out some drivel about how important participation is to our republic, but Professor Victor Davis Hanson has written better than I ever could hope to.

Yes, some of the criticisms and questions have been voiced in a raucous or even rude manner. So what? Sometimes that’s what it takes to get a politician’s attention and get him to take you seriously. And that has ever been the way with public, democratic discussion, going back to ancient Athens, and evident in American history from the beginning. Politics involves beliefs and values that lie at the core of people’s identities, and when these beliefs collide, as they must in a large, variegated nation such as ours, sometimes the spectacle can become unpleasant. Nor does the passion expressed necessarily mean the opinion is irrational. But that unpleasantness and conflict are the price we pay for the right publicly to “speak truth to power,” and the opportunity to challenge our leaders and hold them accountable to the people in whom political power ultimately resides. Civility and decorum would be nice, but not at the expense of getting at the truth and holding our leaders’ feet to the fire when policies of such great import (and expense) are being proposed.

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