Disrespect And Dehumanization In Societal Discourse

Devolving from Karl Rove’s tactic and President George W. Bush’s proclamation, “You are either with us, or against us,” societal discourse has hit new lows. It worked to divide our nation into two camps, and there is little if any room for moderate views. Just ask Sen. Olympia Snowe.

Most recently, Stephen D. Foster of Addicting Info reported on former Rick Santorum supporter with perhaps one of the most egregious displays of disrespect, callously joking about assassinating the sitting president. Ironically, coming from the Republican camp, who once loudly pronounced “you must respect the office of the presidency, regardless of who is in office,” the famous Rick Santorum supporter lobbed another thoughtless joke into the media forefront. Infamous for his “aspirin between the legs” birth control statement, Foster Freiss doubled down on callous disregard for others.

Foster Freiss told Lou Dobbs, “There are a lot of things that haven’t been hammered at because Rick and Mitt have been going at each other. Now that they have trained their barrels on President Obama, I hope his teleprompters are bulletproof.”

Naturally, conservative supporters will label this one as a “Lone Wolf” or simply as a joke. And if this stood by itself, perhaps there would be some validity. But today’s society, where Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman is considered to be the victim in his crime, bombings of abortion clinics, and an Atheist teenager who fought to remove the unconstitutional prayer banner in her school receives multiple death threats, Freiss’ one instance of disrespect clearly demonstrates this is not a “Lone Wolf” scenario. Rather, it is a societal disposition to dehumanize anyone who holds a different ideal then one’s self.

Alternet published a very thoughtful article regarding this mentality in today’s society.

“Those twin demons, disrespect and dehumanization, are both highly prevalent in Western racial psyche. When U.S. Representative Joe Wilson yelled “You lie,” interrupting President Obama during a joint session of Congress in September 2009, he was motivated by a disrespect rarely associated with the presidency in such circumstances, not by fear.

Two months earlier, when jet-lagged Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested outside his Cambridge, Mass. home by Sergeant James Crowley, Crowley had nothing to fear from Gates. But Gates had plenty to fear from the armed and duly sworn Crowley. Black Americans, even those who are 6-foot-tall teenagers, own no tanks, atomic bombs, and govern no prisons, police forces armies, reserves, or chemical weaponry with which to affect a hostile takeover of the American government, even one snatched purse at a time.”

Consider Addicting Info’s Stephen D. Foster’s article on Rep. Allen West accusing half of Democrats in House of being Communists. Stephen aptly demonstrated West’s stance is antithetical to American values, where we have the Constitutional Right to worship which ever religion we choose (or not), we also have the Constitutional Right to belong to any political party we choose (or not). The demonization of opposing viewpoints is what is un-American.

While we may disagree with opposing points of views, this does not make the opposition evil demons which must be eliminated for the sake of America. These opposing points of views are not coming from fictitious names, but rather from real people. These are our mothers, grandfathers, grand mothers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, and our children.

Yet our societal discourse has all but forgotten we are attacking our own neighbors and family members. We are a divided country, actively working to alienate opposing points of views. The two main ingredients for this recipe is disrespect and dehumanization. While both political parties are the same in as much as they are real living, breathing people, our two political parties are distinctly separate on how they react to opposing ideas. The elected Republican Party has adopted a scorch earth policy, destroying every liberal gain made over the past several decades, in a feeble attempt to portray their political opponent, President Obama as the culprit. Only through disrespect and dehumanization of him can explain how conservatives can view our sitting president as a “Muslim, atheist, Kenyan, socialist, fascist, dictator.”

We must learn how to listen to each other, despite our political viewpoints. We must learn how to believe in each other, despite our religious beliefs. We must learn how to live together, despite the color of our skin or our economic status. What the conservatives fail to realize is that we are all Americans, together and no amount of divisive rhetoric will change that. As a liberal, I accept there are conservative viewpoints which I may personally disagree with, but I can at least listen to their point of view. Sometimes it changes my mind on an issue. But conservatives must accept that there are liberal viewpoints, which they disagree with, and they must learn to listen and respect those points of views, without resorting to disrespecting or dehumanizing the person challenging their beliefs. Otherwise, conservatives will drive us into a civil war which can still be avoided.