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Saturday, September 10, 2011

America Needs Another Beer Summit

                               "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips
                                 from speaking deceit; turn away from evil
                                 and do good, seek peace and pursue it."
                                                                             - Psalm 34: 13 - 14

In his impassioned speech to introduce President Obama on Labor Day, Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa boldly claimed that the president's army (the union workers) is ready to march and urged their members to take the Tea Party politicians "son-of-a-b*****s" out. Upon taking the stage, the President returned the love and said he was proud of the man and the other union bosses gathered in that event.  When asked about the SOB comment, the White House opted to not repudiate it,  saying only that the union boss does not speak for the President. Over in Cincinnati, Ohio, VP Joe Biden added to the pile-on rallying the union crowds that "they are the only ones who can keep the barbarians at the gate!" Not too long ago, the vice president also called the Tea Partiers terrorists.

There is a troubling trend among our lawmakers in using inciting and violent language. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) proudly boasted that as far as she's concerned, "the Tea Party can go straight to hell." Rep. Andre Carson (D- Indiana) upped the verbal assault, saying in a town hall gathering that some members of the Congress affiliated with the Tea Party would like to "see you and me hanging on a tree" without so much as naming the offender or when it was said. This was the same man who claimed that the "n-word was hurled at Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a civil rights movement icon, numerous times by Tea Party activists protesting on the eve of the Obamacare vote in March 2010. Andrew Breitbart, a conservative publisher, had offered to pay $100,000 to anyone who could provide proof of the hostile racial incident. The reward remains unclaimed to this day. In this age of modern technology when every cell phone is equipped with camera, not one soul could step forward with a single audio or video clip of the incident.

An ugly verbal back-and-forth is quite common in politics. Free speech  guarantees us that right, no matter how absurdly twisted or offensive the words are but it is one thing for activists or protestors, from either the Left or the Right, to use  incendiary and inflammatory rhetorics.  It's quite another when  our elected representatives are the ones doing the offensive name-calling and labeling a particular group of citizens "terrorists" or "Jim-Crows".  These elected politicians are supposed to represent all of us. No matter what their constituents' political leanings are , these lawmakers are supposed to be bridging the gap between the many factions and ideas of the people they represent. Joining - and even worse, leading the mud-slinging themselves is irresponsible, immature and un-American. Explosive language makes for good and sympathetic soundbites but it takes away the focus from the pressing issues our country is facing. It does nothing to solve any of our problems and it only divides Americans even farther apart. The race-baiting rhetorics are particularly disturbing. It's true that remnants of racism still exist up to this day but we cannot dismiss the great progress the country has made in repairing race relations. The biggest proof of that progress is the man sitting in the Oval Office right now.

Back in 2009, President Obama hosted a beer summit  at the White House to diffuse  tension that emanated from an arrest of a friend of the President's for disorderly conduct and Mr. Obama saying that the police had "acted stupidly"  without knowing the details of the incident. The Happy Hour brought about a civil resolution to the "misunderstanding" among the parties involved.

It seems like America needs another beer summit.  The question now is, with the President working on his reelection bid and rallying up his base amid sinking poll ratings , can we still look to the White House for leadership on calling a truce for all these unnecessary verbal hatefests?

Barack Obama's own speeches are peppered with hyperpartisanship but he is still the leader of this country. He has the power, the authority and responsibility to call a stop on these mad, over-the-top "rhetorical flourishes" before they get out of hand. We need to bring civility and sanity back to our national discourse. President Obama needs to get a handle on this. He only has to say the word.

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