Politics is uncivil. It is one of the few things we can all agree upon. Though American politicians don’t usually pull guns on each other, as in Jordan, it has always been this way. If everyone was unified and polite, little disagreements like the Civil War may never have happened. To believe otherwise is to harbor a flawed, heavily edited nostalgia for the non-existent “good old days”. Politics isn’t, “…and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver” – unless, of course, by Beaver you mean wolverine.
I’ve often been told my writing is curmudgeonly. Someone once likened it to a bitter old man sitting on his porch throwing firecrackers at the neighborhood kids and I admit I throw my share. This post is not a defense of my words, but an explanation of why I do what I do.
Let me start by saying it is never OK to throw insults, even if the Molotov cocktail is in response to an equally boneheaded thing said by your opponents. However, if you’re going to say something, own it, which I do. Don’t defend it by saying, “Well, they said it first,” which I don’t. As Mom said, “If the other kids walked off a bridge would you follow them?” No, I wouldn’t.
I blog to stimulate debate and provocative language works amazingly well. Careful readers of The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks will note that I may act impolitely to entice readers with different perspectives into a debate. However, I am always less provocative in comments than I was in the “poking with a stick” phase. Sort of a bad insulting cop/good polite cop scenario.
I believe the First Amendment is almost absolute because it is the Amendment from which all others flow. There are few things – even hate speech – I would ban. I. have never banned a commenter (except spammers) from any place my blog appears and don’t expect to. I believe in saying your piece – unrestricted and unedited. Besides, no matter what you say someone will be offended. Like a TV, you don’t have to listen. In fact, much of what passes for impoliteness is someone being overly sensitive to language they don’t like as a linguistic evasion from actual dialog.
I often qualify my potentially impolite statements. For example, not all Christians are ignorant bucket heads, but many are. Not all conservatives are heartless bastards, but some are. Sometimes I miss making the distinction, but admit it when I do. And, I will apologize – though not retract the statement – when I have caused offense.
I also use impolite or profane speech to outline a point. It helps convey the depth of my feeling about a subject, startles people enough to make them sit up and pay attention to a different perspective, or simply makes the post more interesting to read. People like to say they want good news, even though there is plenty of it already available. But, most wouldn’t pay attention to it anyway. To use the old saw, dog bites man isn’t news, but man bites dog? Now that’s a story!
Do I contribute to rancor or simple impoliteness? Guilty as charged. Do I sometimes piss people off? I hope so. Is there a method behind the madness? IMHO, yes. Am I going to stop?