It looks like we are on the eve of health care reform being passed by the legislature. Don’t worry, I am not going to comment on what I think about health care reform. If I did, it would generate a flurry of reaction depending on which side of the issue you are on. What concerns me instead is the “tenor” of political debate that now occurs in our country. Words are powerful. And the words that have been thrown about lately are disturbing. What prompted this post were two things that happened recently.
One was the rhetoric of Glenn Beck in which he urged all Christians to leave churches that use the term “social justice” as these are “code words” for Communism and Naziism. I am a firm believer in social justice as the idea of taking care of the poor, the widows, the orphans, advocating justice for the oppressed, etc. Even a quick scan of the Bible reveals that this is a major theme, not only in the teachings of Jesus, but the admonitions of the prophets. I suppose that since this is important to me as one who tries to follow the way of Jesus, I am now counted by some (or at least one) as a Communist or Nazi.
Another was the comment of a blog post on Facebook in which the person referred to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “pure evil”. This comment was made in the context of the rancorous health reform debate. I must admit that, regardless of my politics, I find Nancy Pelosi to be pretty darn annoying. But pure evil? Aren’t those the words we reserve for people like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin? But Nancy Pelosi?
Nancy Pelosi is a member of the Democratic party with a liberal agenda. Why she or anyone else is cast in the rhetoric of good versus evil mystifies me. In fact I find it very disturbing now that I reflect on the politics of the last presidential election. I am old enough to remember a time when politics were discussed in political terms. Democrats tended toward the left end of the political spectrum, Republicans to the right. And plenty in the middle, the pragmatists that ensured that something actually got accomplished.
It wasn’t until the last 30 years or so that I started to hear politics discussed in terms of good versus evil. And now there are segments in our country who see it as their duty to wage holy war against whatever they consider to be evil. There is a term for holy war: It is called “jihad”. Is that what our society is heading toward?
Or… is it more useful to back off the use of such incendiary words and work towards a path of compromise that allows things to actually get done. Of course, that is another dirty word to many: “compromise”.