Saturday, April 10, 2010

Using The High Road, Rep. Cleaver Hits Back. Silences Conspiracy Theorists. Gives Community Another Positive Lesson.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, in response to critics, takes the usual high road and writes his special to The Star where he teaches us all a lesson in politics, debate and civility.

Repost of Emanuel Cleaver's Special to The Kansas City Star.

By Emanuel Cleaver, Special to The Kansas City Star

It is hard to imagine what future generations will make of the last few weeks in American history. Certainly they will evaluate the effectiveness of a health care overhaul bill now only days old. My colleagues and I have stood behind podiums to declare that it will be transformative legislation. History will judge whether we are right.

Of far greater concern is that without a change in course, my granddaughter will read in her history books that these were the days the basic fabric of our tenuous relationship with our own republic began to fray and tear.

What will she think as she reads of the ill-mannered ending to the House health care debate and its untidy aftermath? Certainly the incident that befell her grandfather should not warrant writing or recalling. But what will it say about us and our time, that on the heels of a monumental achievement so many were transfixed on the transgression of one yelling protester who unapologetically splattered my cheek with saliva?

For some, blinded by partisan fervor, nothing I can say here will thwart their conspiracy theories of the unfortunate episode. For those looking for a play-by-play account of the day, it won’t happen. There is no benefit to me or the nation.

The incident was trivial; the anger it represents is not. These are trying and serious times and call for thoughtful and serious people of all political persuasions to build our national community rather than tear it apart.

Some pundits and politicians suggest that a higher degree of bipartisanship is needed. While I agree that bipartisanship has its value, it is not our problem. Partisanship is a vital component of a democracy. There is a difference between healthy partisanship and disingenuous rancor. Neither party has the market on truth. Our nation and its laws are made better by active and aggressive minority opposition.

However, we in Congress have gone too far. We have abandoned any pretence of civility. Both sides are guilty. No responsible parent would instruct a child to watch Congress in action on C-SPAN to learn the American art of debate without debasement.

Some blame the 24-hour news cycle and talk radio for politics turned ugly. That’s the cheap way out. Our behavior is our choice. Accountability used to be a watchword. Now, elected officials claim righteousness while their campaigns simultaneously push smut and lies.

The president and members of Congress are supposed to lead the band, not just blame them for the shrill sound of the music. We must become the national example of decorum.
Democratic members of Congress must retreat from the notion that all tea party members are crazed hooligans. To accept and push that view is not only divisive, it is diabolical. As an African American, I have been caught in the net of the, “they all are” mentality.

Republican members ought to stop accusing Democrats and the president of laying the foundation for a socialist takeover. That is not true and they know it. Their constituents, however, may not.

This is not the first time in our history that our heated rhetoric has threatened to tear us apart. But in this age of instant gratification, gain without sacrifice and perpetual victimhood, our political parties and leaders are fanning flames of frustration and turning genuine fears into bonfires. Americans should be able to disagree with one another without painting the other side as un-American.

The rage is real. I have felt it first-hand. The risk to our republic is real as well. Members of Congress from both parties would be much more towering and statesmanlike if they would present more vision and fewer nightmares.

We are a better, more compassionate and caring nation than our current behavior portrays.

Our nation’s strength is completely dependent on our ability to conduct civil conversations about our shared future.
That starts with Congress, and I will do my part.

Emanuel Cleaver represents Missouri’s 5th U.S. House district. He served as mayor of Kansas City from 1991 to 1999.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Free Blog Counter