2016 election

I, Virginia Bergman, pledge not to vote for a male presidential candidate in 2016 just because he's male.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Introducing political leaders and their rabid supporters to basic communication skills

Secretary Clinton Meets With Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Dec. 2, 2011, State Department photo, public domain. Although Hillary's job approval as secretary of state is 66%, she continues to be targeted online by rabid anonymous attackers.

In Feb. 2008, Dr. Stanley Fish, Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and a professor of law at Florida International University, in Miami, and dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, addressed Hillary-hating in his NY Times column, “Think Again.” In his next column, he replied to the responses he received from readers:

The responses to my column on Hillary Clinton-hating have been both voluminous (the largest number in the brief history of “Think Again”) and fascinating. The majority of posters agreed with the characterization of the attacks on Senator Clinton as vicious and irrational, but in not a few posts the repudiation of Hillary-hatred is followed by more of the same. Lisa (No. 17) nicely exemplifies the pattern. She begins by saying “I agree that there is a rabid nature in the manner in which numerous conservative groups attack Hillary Clinton,”, but in the very next sentence she declares that “most of Hillary’s reputation is well earned” and then she spends nine paragraphs being rabid. A significant minority of posters skipped the ritual disavowal of hatred and went straight to the task of adding to it.

It seems that Hillary’s recent successes as America’s most admired woman, the most popular politician in the nation, and a 66% job approval as secretary of state – compared to Obama’s declining poll numbers - have incited more of the “vicious, irrational attacks,” noted by Dr. Fish in 08.

Hillary’s attackers at the Huffington Post, for example, stalk every mention of her on that huge website and even go to the Style page to spew their hateful sexist comments. When called to account, the haters defend their right to free speech, apparently having never realized that our constitution does not guarantee the right to slander those with whom one disagrees.

If there’s any hope for a more civil society, it lies with the efforts of today’s parents to teach their children mutually respectful communication skills, which are not to be discarded when posting anonymously at an online message board at websites like the Huffington Post.  

Julie Costa, volunteer manager for Global Volunteers, is wisely training her two young sons in the art of communication by giving each of them a green card and a blue card:

The Green Card

There's something I need to talk to you about. It’s super hard for me to bring this up to you, but I feel it’s important. While you’re holding this card, I’m asking you to really listen. When I take the card back from you, I’m ready for you to respond.

The Blue Card

I’m handing you this blue card because our conversation has turned ugly. When this card is presented, we are to take a break for five minutes to cool off. We may postpone this conversation for another time, but we agree the conversation will continue when we can speak more calmly about this topic. This card may be presented more than one time in a conversation.

Based on the steady decline of civil communication in our culture since 9/11 and the behavior of our dysfunctional congress the past year, it might be a good idea to give each of our elected officials the Costa family’s green card and blue card and provide them an introductory seminar on mutually respectful communication skills. Perhaps they could, in turn, serve as role models for their crazed supporters on both the left and the right?

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