Emotions and tense political debate reached a peak seen rarely in American politics during the debate over Wisconsin Gov. Scott WalkerâÄôs budget reform bill. Protesters gathered around the nation in solidarity for the unions, and protesters practically lived in the Wisconsin Capitol. With this rise in emotion came a rise in violent actions and threats
The lack of civilly became apparent after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. After that tragedy President Barack Obama said âÄúat a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized … itâÄôs important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.âÄù
Some people attributed the Arizona shooting to the lack of civility in American politics, but I honestly donâÄôt think this is the case. I simply donâÄôt believe that crosshairs or bullâÄôs-eyes over her congressional district caused the shooting.
However, the call for more civility in politics made after the shooting is undeniably a positive thing, and the lack of it in Wisconsin is troubling.
The blog bigjournalism.com has placed the violent events of Wisconsin protesters in a timeline with links to the news articles about each specific event. From that list, I counted a total of 23 anti-Walker threats and attacks on Republican state senators in the last two weeks.
Death threats frequently appeared on the list. For example, a piece of paper that said âÄúThe only good Republican is a DEAD RepublicanâÄù was slipped under the door of a Republican senatorâÄôs office. Additionally, pictures surfaced of Walker with crosshairs over his face with a title that says âÄúRELOAD.âÄù
Furthermore, a coordinator of the Wisconsin Tea Party Patriots received a call at 2:30 a.m. from a male voice that asked âÄúAre you wearing a bulletproof vest?âÄù and then hung up. Then, March 4, dozens of rounds of ammunition were found near an entrance to the state Capitol.
These threats are not just examples of extremists âÄútalking big.âÄù The property of Republican senators has been vandalized, and a senatorâÄôs windshield broken.
But perhaps the most frightening example of the lack of civility is when Rep. Mike Capuano, D-Mass., said at a solidarity protest for the Wisconsin Public Workers Unions, âÄúEvery once in awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary.âÄù
These actions are especially unacceptable in light of the call from Obama and others to turn down the level of violence and vitriol in political discourse. Even if they are successful, nonviolent forms of protest can be harmful as well.
An unfortunate example of this is the teachers who caused schools to be closed after they called in sick in order to protest. I wonder if the teachers and the union bosses who were involved realize they are hurting innocent students to advance their own cause.
There are always two sides to every issue: Civility means being able to discuss politics without resorting to violent or harmful protests.
Vandalizing public property, issuing death threats, calling in sick and having elected officials flee the state are not appropriate ways to hold a political discussion.
Obama called our nation to work out our differences in a civil manner, and that call for civility is long overdue.
With the continued battle over this bill, I hope the pro-union Democrat protesters in Wisconsin and Americans everywhere will listen to the words of Obama and truly take to heart his message of civility. Without it, we cannot move forward to confront the myriad of challenges facing our country today.