Thursday, November 8, 2007

Column: Reaction to column reveals need for civility

I wrote a column about the tiny bruhaha that erupted over my post-Virginia Tech column, and it ran in the last issue of Madison Park Times:

Several bloggers laid fire to my post-Virginia Tech column, "We Must Stem the Flow of Guns," originally published in the May 2007 edition of the Madison Park Times.

A reader who runs a blog on townhall.com, wrote an entire short essay rebutting my piece, cleverly entitled "The Outdated Second Amendment." The reader was a rather eloquent essayist, and I must say he laid into me in a verbally adept way of which I am not used to being on the receiving end.

His major contention with me had to do with my claim that "no one was responsible enough to own a handgun." He was admittedly right to lay into this, as it could be interpreted as a blanket statement calling a large group of Americans irresponsible, a statement that could, in and of itself, be irresponsible.

The reader said, "If we extend that same rationale to the rest of the Bill of Rights, then neither is anyone responsible enough to have or voice an opinion on issues of national interest, decide their own religion for themselves, determine if they've been wronged by government and should seek redress, or anything else. All those aspects of liberty should be dictated, I suppose, by trained professionals. It would also indicate that Powell evidently considers the founding fathers misguided in their trust of the people."

Ouch.

When one is accused in American political debate of thinking the authors of the Constitution were misguided, it's meant to sting. If your beliefs are contrary to the ones held by those who founded the country, then the whole value of anything you say begins to come into question.


GETTING PERSONAL

While I got excited about the fact that my article was being taken so seriously by a reader, that feeling began to deteriorate. I was as diplomatic as someone like me can try to be, but soon it became quite apparent that things were getting personal.

I was disappointed to see personal e-mails that I had sent in response to his own being posted without my consent. For the reader, the subject seemed to have become less about the issue of gun rights and more about me.

I didn't even start to look at the comment thread to the reader's post, which I imagined would be filled with some very nasty words about me. The whole thing was a bit bizarre, because I'm just one guy living in Seattle writing on a keyboard, who never claimed to be the epitomy of modern-day conservatism.

While it seems like a couple of guys that might have gotten a little bit obsessive, at the core of this was the issue of debate: Are we going to debate the issues, or are we going to play Gotcha in hopes that we will win over another person? Are we going to solve problems or turn against each other?

I am certainly no beacon of perfection, but it seems there's already a lot of negativity and misery in the world, and we'd be a whole lot better to try to be a little civil to each other.

Michael Powell can be reached at mptimes@nwlink.com. He also has a web log at mopowell.blogspot.com.

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