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Saturday, April 13, 2024

EDITORIAL: Longing for the Days of Respectful Political Discourse

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The⁢ world’s gotten a bit louder since I moved ⁣into my mother’s house on Union Street back in ’83. The sweet harmony of bagged leaves crunching under my Pac-Man high tops in the fall has ‌been replaced by the persistent ​screech of discordant public discourse, which always ⁢seems to reach its fever pitch just as the leaves begin to turn. Gone are the civility, respect and sportsmanship. All we hear now are raised⁣ voices, slurs, jeers, and vindictiveness. It’s like living on a fault line; you never know when the big one is going to hit.

Summer⁣ afternoons spent trading baseball cards and Hoodsie Cups on my front porch seem like a distant dream. My buddies and​ I would argue about⁣ whether The New York Yankees or The Boston Red Sox were the better team, ‌but we’d ‌always settle⁢ it⁢ with a friendly game of stickball or a mound of vanilla ice cream smothered in root beer. The real action, ⁤however, took place in ⁣living rooms and kitchens across⁢ Schenectady. Back then, Democrats and Republicans would⁣ gather around radios,‌ listening to Ronald Reagan call on Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, or Tip O’Neill​ preach about American values from the House of Representatives. They sparred, yes, but always with class, always with dignity.

Those were ‍the politicians who ⁣knew how to⁤ disagree without being disagreeable. They had their differences, sure, but at ‍the end ⁤of the day, they’d cross ‌the aisle, share a beer, and laugh it off. The stakes were high, but they never pandered or played dirty. They hit hard, they hit fair and when ‌the ‌bell rang, they shook hands.

Look where we are today. ‍The line between fact and fiction has ‍been rubbed so thin you ‍could slide it under a locked door. All you see is politicians twisting truths, pedaling half-lies and bending facts to fit⁣ their narratives. ​They barely take​ a breath between mud slingings, and we’re left to sift through the wreckage, trying to piece together ⁤what the hell happened to respect, decency, and fairness.

When my young niece asked me why two politicians on the TV were screaming at each⁣ other about taxes, I didn’t know what to tell her. She ‍looked dismayed; the concept that you could scream and shout ⁣to get your point across was alien to her. I⁣ didn’t have the heart to⁣ school her on the new tactics of political⁣ discourse. I just changed the channel to ‘Tom⁣ and Jerry’. Even as a ⁤cat tried to‌ eat a mouse, it seemed less savage somehow.

I’m ‌reminded of a time when I met with Senator Al D’Amato after one of his ⁣rallies. I had asked him how he managed to‍ keep his cool in the face of such criticism. He laughed, clapped me on the shoulder and said, “Brian, it’s not about shouting the loudest, it’s ⁤about making your point‌ the clearest.” ‌This brand⁢ of wisdom seems to have evaporated, replaced ⁤by a new, more abrasive school of thought that prizes ⁤theatrics over substance.

As a​ kid growing up⁣ in Schenectady, ‌I would bike ⁣every morning to the‌ newsstand to grab a copy of the ⁣Times Union. It was my ritual, my connection to the wider world. But today, the newsstand is ​shuttered, its windows​ dusty and marked by years of disrepair. The news now blares from screens in ‌our pockets, fueling an unending cacophony of opinion, each one bolder and louder than ‍the previous. Slow-paced discussion ⁤seems almost quaint, an artifact from a time when nuance‌ was valued over soundbites.

I yearn‌ for the days when people could sit down at a diner, order a coffee‍ and a piece​ of pie, ‍and hash out their political differences without reducing to name-calling or questioning each other’s loyalty to this great nation. The discourse was ‌rich, argument backed by knowledge, diverging opinions treated with dignity, and ⁤the conversation always⁢ being steered towards compromise and collaboration.

I’d give anything to get that back. We’ve embraced outrage as entertainment, forgotten the ‌simple joy of understanding and forgotten how much sweeter it is ⁣to taste the cream in our coffee ​over the bitterness‍ of divisiveness.⁢ But like old ⁤Pac-Man, ‍we keep chomping ‍away at what divides ⁢us, ⁢and the ghosts of our better ⁤nature are always one step behind.

So, this is a call to arms. Not ‍just for ⁤the politicians ‌but for all of us – ⁢the ones ⁣who’ve been around the block and seen the​ change, the ⁣ones who remember and miss the better times. Let’s ‌buck the trend, start again. No more shouting matches,​ no ⁣more​ name-calling. It’s⁣ about respect, it’s about decency, and above all, it’s about time we got back to being us. A nation⁢ not divided, but in discourse. Because as we know from experience, that’s when we truly start to make a⁢ difference.

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Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy
I'm Brian McCarthy! At your service to offer traditionally informed perspective on today's issues. Some call it out of touch; I call it time-honored wisdom.
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