Reading the prepared text of Obama’s speech at the Tucson Memorial Thursday night, there was one part I really liked:
And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.
I would prioritize honesty–that is, speaking with words that have meaning and are not simply utterances designed to manipulate–over civility, but it’s good to see someone valuing honesty. But I have to agree with Rotwang about this (who is kicking ass over at Atrios’ pad):
“I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness …” I don’t. Go ahead and sue me. The President’s speech was intermittently inspiring. But he said this in the state of Arizona, where as we speak they deny organ transplants to people who subsequently die.
As a second piece of evidence, I would add one word: torture. The nauseating love affair too many Americans developed with torture, based on a crappy TV action drama, does not speak to decency and goodness.
The point is not to be a snarky buzzkill (that’s just a bonus!), but to note that some people aren’t behaving ethically. They hold positions that are abhorrent. When people support the torture people out of misguided fear, or deny life-saving treatment because those who have so much greedily refuse to help the needy, they need to be called out on this. Honesty requires the unlovely recognition that some of us aren’t all that good.
This, too, is honesty. And it is far more important than civility.