Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of My 10, 2004
Personal poison taints the stories
Light One Candle
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
A friend recently gave me with a book called Madame Hillary. It's a critical exposition on the politics of Senator Hillary Clinton. I read it with interest, and believe that the author makes some valid points about the senator's goals and agenda.
But something in the book bothered me. It was the tone.
He didn't just disagree with the politics of Hillary Clinton, he dismantled her personally. The attacks were frontal and personal. Reading that book reminded me of the very first political book I ever read as a kid. It was by Victor Lasky and was named JFK: The Man and the Myth.
It too was unrelenting. It not only criticized the governance of President John Kennedy, it tore him apart as a human being. I remember thinking: "There isn't a lot of fairness in this evaluation." I recall being put off by the vitriol of the author. Again, his criticism of a man's policies was more then fair game. But I was troubled by the nasty and hostile tone of the writing.
I wish I could say that these two books, both written by conservatives about liberal Democrats, were unique, but they're not. Just last week I had some time to browse at a bookstore. I counted no fewer then seven books on the recently published shelf that evaluated President George W. Bush.
I made the effort to page through each of the books. And there it was again - writing that was just plain mean spirited. Personal-attack prose focused a sort of irrational hatred for the president of the United States. I have no doubt that similarly styled books will soon appear to tear at Senator John Kerry.
The books, I think, reflect where we've fallen in political life. We need to debate for sure. We can and should disagree. But our ability to see a concept differently from someone else doesn't earn us the right to attack them personally.
And the depth of these personal attacks is, I'd suggest, poisoning our public discourse. It's taking debate and dialogue and making them an ugly thing. It doesn't have to be this way.
Father James Keller, founder of The Christophers, had a unique vision. He thought every one of us had special gifts and insights. He suggested that if we have the ability to see others as children of the same God, we could even disagree - but with charity.
If you accept his important insight, you realize that we learn by listening to another viewpoint. And we can see values from a different perspective without having to hate or reject the person who sees life or politics differently.
I know that I have learned as much in life from those with whom I disagree as I have from those with whom I'm in complete agreement.
So listen to the views of Kerry and Bush and Ralph Nader. And vehemently disagree with their conclusions if you like. But be sure to separate rejection of ideas from rejection of people. They're not the same thing.
At The Christophers we say: "It's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." So light that candle by reasonable and civil discourse. Look at a position or opinion as worthy of critical evaluation. But give the benefit of doubt to the people who hold other opinions.
Love people. Disagree with their ideas. It can make for a much more peaceful way of seeking and finding the truth.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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