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McLaughlin Would Say: Wrong!
April 23, 2003 - 9:16 p.m.
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I just read two articles back-to-back that share a lot in common.
The first was about the Dixie Chicks, who are apparently getting death threats because the lead singer told a concert audience that she was ashemed to be from the same state as George W. Bush.
The second was about Bush Administration discussions about ways to punish France for opposing war with Iraq.
What both share in common is the principle that those who express unpopular views deserve punishment.
A country that wants to be the shining beacon of democracy for the rest of the world needs to become a little more tolerant of free speech and ideas. And a little more tolerant of voting. (France is also singled out for punishment because it wouldn't vote for war in the U.N. But France gets more punishment than Russia, which was also prepared to veto war, because France was uppity about it.)
This is where "either you're with us, or you're against us" has brought us. It's a principle of no room for debate, and it's a principle that he who does not agree with you is your adversary. The president started it. The people felt good about it as a get-tough stance after the September 11 attacks. And now, we the people have internalized the principle and apply it in our daily lives.
Since "either you're with us or you're against us," the Dixie Chicks get death threats for being against war, a guy can get harassed by mall security guards and arrested for wearing an anti-war t-shirt, and several family members won't talk to me because apparently, by being against war, I'm in liege with Evil.
(And by the way, before someone can be allowed to use the word "unpatriotic," he should be required to first pass a test on the contents of the U.S. Constitution.)
Bush's simple-minded and dangerous rhetoric upsets and frustrates me to no end. But I see only two appropriate options for me to deal with that. One is to express contrary views. The other is to vote for someone else in the 2004 presidential election. In a land of democracy and free speech, those are the only appropriate ways to disagree about speech.
It's also important to forgive. That someone wrongfully disagrees with the ultimate wisdom of my opinions is a forgivable offense. It doesn't help anyone to hold grudges, and if we build up too many, we won't be able to talk to anyone. Because no person perfectly agrees with another. So country fans should forgive the Dixie Chicks for being pacifist, and start enjoying their music again. It'd be really nice if I could be forgiven for my war views, because it would be nice to have relationships with some of my family again.
If we really want to be the example of freedom for the rest of the world, we need to start practicing how to have a civil disagreement.