Don’t overdo the civility

May 13th, 2008

While political censorship is abhorrent in a free society, political invective is democracy’s very breath of life. Yes, even when that breath has halitosis. This is what David Swan of Denver seems to misunderstand.

His off-key swan song on today’s Denver Post letters page scolds me for a May 4 column, “Who’s Afraid of Ideas?”, in which I supposedly violated my own precepts by calling the enemies of Douglas Bruce a lynch mob, the critics of Rush Limbaugh a chorus of pantywaists, and the avatars of political correctness in general, caterwauling spinsters.

But with his call for “civil discussion” in place of Andrews’ alleged “stereotyping,” “close-mindedness,” and “derisive attitude,” Swan misses my whole point. Civility is fine in moderation. Let’s have as much of it as we can. But don’t overdo it, please.

Let’s never become such pantywaists and spinsters (if the petticoat fits, wear it, Mr. Swan) that we let our dainty betters use the rough tone of political debate or media polemics as an excuse to delegitimize the valid criticisms someone was attempting to voice.

The “How dare you” rebuke and schoolmarmish silencing gavel that Rep. Curry brought down on Rep. Bruce on Black Monday in the legislature are an offense to the whole spirit of unfettered discussion in our American Republic. These and the other examples in my recent column represent a call to arms for anyone who loves the freedom of the mind.

In this battle David Swan may be a pacifist, but I am an all-out militant. Against the hush-mouthing Currys of this world I will use any weapon short of violence — including, if need be, taunts and name-calling.

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