There is a small miracle happening in the blogosphere.
After the tragic Tucson killings, there was an explosion of stories and articles on the bogosphere blaming both rightwing and leftwing vitriol for the violence. Emotions were at a fever pitch. Under this firestorm, a few bloggers were not diving into the maelstrom but began a discussion of how we debate each other. We represented the full political spectrum and had often heatedly debated issues just the week before.
We met on a post regarding speaking out about hate speech published by a Republican. We continued the conversation on another post about the call for civility resonating with the public by a labor leader. As we began to really communicate with one another, some apologized for any hurtful words they may have used in debate. Some pledged to never be as uncivil as they had been in the past. Others said they would try. We agreed that both the right and the left wing media and public figures had contributed to the present uncivil public discourse. We began crossing the political divide, friending those we had passionately disagreed with only the day before.
The idea of a nonpartisan, nonpolitical petition supporting civility in our public discourse was born. A dozen of us agreed to cosponsor an agreed-upon petition. Via email, we exchanged ideas and created a nonpartisan and nonpolitical petition. One cosponsor suggested the online petition site to host the petition. Another poster submitted the petition to the website and alerted the other cosponsors that it was up and ready.
On the the Tuesday evening following the Tucson shootings, the article about the Americans United for Civility Petition was posted with the backing of these conservative, progressive and independent cosponsors.
As bloggers came by to sign the petition, they made comments such as “I don’t often agree with you on anything but I agree that we can do better”. Folks pledged to think before they wrote and to be more civil.
We witnessed a groundswell of support for the President’s call to our better angels. We now have bloggers whose avatars indicate allegiance to Palin posting articles praising President Obama for unifying the nation, embracing for the very first time that they finally feel that he is their president too. This great and good news is only a speed bump on mainstream media’s race to outrun any possibility for change in our political climate.
Below are some of the comments that this process has generated:
“The political discourse has been a runaway train for a long time now, exponentially gathering speed. This tragedy was like someone pulling the emergency brake chord bringing the problem to the forefront for discussion and resolution. Whether or not the politics had anything to do with the shooter's motivation is beside the point.”
“Left or right, Dem or Republican, Liberal, Con, Independent, Tea Party, Libertarian, it's our America and we're all making it unrecognizable with all of the hate and division.”
“I know we disagree on most everything. Your article on Obama's speech was a definite olive branch. I hope we can have respectful dialogue in the future, in fact I sincerely look forward to it. :) I make a vow to you to keep it respectful and peaceful as well.”
One conservative blogger described his evening trying to watch the news. He turned on one news program after the other and found them only rehashing the "left said" "right said" divide. He wound up watching a sitcom.
When Americans realize that both the right and left media have a monetary interest in continuing the politics of division, it can open their eyes so they may judge for themselves.
Here on Open Salon, Huffington Post blogger Ron Robinson has written a post on which I engaged him about my notion that if we choose the path of blame we cement the discord in our country and will find it impossible to return to the opportunity that our President has given us to unite as a common people. In the best you-are-either-with-us-or-against-us rhetoric, he asked me to not comment further and to convey a message to my friend Sean Hannity. (His avatar is the latest one on my friends list. You may find our interchange there.) I am in my third year here at Open Salon, and I leave it to my friends whether I have ever given any hint that I endorse right wing rhetoric.
Challenging the left or right wing media is a dangerous almost revolutionary action.
The media will not lead in any change in the political climate because they profit from discord, not discourse. The people must lead them. It was an eye-opener to me to receive negative feedback from two news media sources which are both widely considered progressive.
I have lately come to see clearly that all media is exactly like, they differ only in the Brand they push--Left vs Right. Their only aim is to protect their bottom line like any corporate entity. And they appear to feel strongly that the talk about creating a more meaningful dialogue by the American people by abandoning their Brandname Products is a threat to their quarterly profits.
We are at a crossroads and can choose the path of blame or we can choose the path of rejecting divisions and try to improve our political discourse as our President asked us to do in the name--not of being polite or nice--but of finally being able to discuss the serious issues which we are faced with as a people. If we just keep pointing fingers and using personal attacks, we will never get down to business.
There is a sense that we are no longer allowing the politics of division to divide us. There is a sense that we the people can lead our media and public figures to heed the challenge that President Obama gave us to make America every bit as good as Christina imagined.