Dear Tell All: I have a question about civility.
Out of curiosity, I went to the Capitol on April 16 to see the tea party rally featuring Sarah Palin. Personally, I haven't done any protesting of Gov. Scott Walker since the craziness started this year, though I'm generally sympathetic to the protesters' views. And I've been impressed that, from all reports, the pro-labor rallies have been peaceful and respectful.
On this day, however, I did not approve of what I saw. The anti-Walker crowd was determined to drown out the tea party speakers with bells and shouts, and the speakers were clearly distressed about it. Now, I understand showing up to register opposition, but to actually try to prevent speakers from being heard? That seems beyond the pale to me.
Dear Ears: I don't usually come down on the side of Miss Manners, but I will channel her in this instance. No, I don't think it's right to prevent tea party representatives from being heard. Waving signs and booing certain statements? Sure. But protesters should at least let their opponents make an argument in a public forum. Otherwise, they look like bullies.
Let's do the flipping-it-around test. How would progressives feel if, say, Jesse Jackson tried to explain his pro-labor views in Alaska and was hooted into silence by an enormous tea party crowd? How would they feel if the smaller crowd of Alaska progressives who'd come to see him couldn't hear a word? They'd be outraged, and rightfully so.
I also remember progressives crying foul when tea partiers shouted down Democratic politicians in the 2009 town hall meetings on health care reform. And when a Republican congressman shouted "You lie!" to disrupt President Obama's State of the Union address.
Democrats should allow Republicans to have their say at scheduled rallies, just as Republicans should let Democrats have their say in similar situations. Then each side can viciously attack the other's position. In wartime, Miss Manners only goes so far.
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