Respect and courtesy in politics - impossible or necessary?

Living in Canada, I sometimes feel a bit isolated – or perhaps insulated is a better word – from the various goings on in the U.S. political scene. Mind you, I abhor political posturing and drama, so I tend not to pay attention to all of the talking heads, controversies and rumors. So, even if I lived in the U.S. still I probably wouldn’t know the ins and outs of if all. I’d much rather research on my own to find out what a politician's stance is on issues important to me. Moving to Canada has been an education for sure. The first time I watched discussions in the Canadian House of Commons, I recall likening it to a grade school playground dispute. (Most politicians could do with a time out, in my opinion, regardless of party affiliation or country!) Politics, political issues and political candidates' views seem to bring out the absolute worst in people across the board, though.

The most egregious example of this type of thing happening in the U.S. that I can recall actually happened recently when Representative Joe Wilson (R) of South Carolina yelled out "You lie!" during Obama's address to the House of Representatives.

Because I dislike politics and distrust politicians, I can't say with any real accuracy whether or not this type of behavior is the norm in the Congress or Senate in Washington, D.C. I certainly don't remember such blatant disrespect occurring on a regular basis. But it does happen regularly in the House of Commons, regardless of which party is in power.

I was originally starting this post as a commentary on Sarah Palin, but as I got to thinking more about her and what a ridiculous political figure she is, I realized that I didn't want to give her more attention. The one thing about her that does relate to my overall view of politics is that I find it unconscionable that her children have been attacked by the media and comedians. Kids should be off limits, unless they are adults and have a public profile themselves – of course, even then the media needs to stick to the issues and not cross the line into personal attacks. Certainly no political party is immune to their children being attacked; even Chelsea Clinton, as a pre-teen during Bill Clinton's first campaign for presidency, was ridiculed for her looks by media/comedians. This tactic is wholly irrelevant to the concerns of running the government and just plain cruel to anyone at that age and stage of growing up. It is particularly distasteful when you consider that any child attacked that way didn’t have a say in what their parents chose as a profession.

Other public figures, namely celebrities, put their opinions out there and they get heckled for their views. An excellent example of this is Elisabeth Hasselbeck, one of the co-hosts of ABC's The View, a show built on the premise that we all have different viewpoints to contribute to the general dialogue of life. In terms of politics, Elisabeth is the requisite conservative of the group and she takes a LOT of flak for her opinions. Though I'm conservative, I don't always agree with her, and even when I do, I sometimes get frustrated at the way she presents her case. However, I can respect that she has the guts to continue putting herself out there and facing the inevitable criticism. Of course, she's getting a pay cheque for it and The View gets its ratings, so it's win-win. Elisabeth came to mind because…well, I tend to like reading about babies being born – no matter who the parents are – and decided to look up what Elisabeth recently had (a son) and I came across this video on YouTube from CelebTV. Check out the comments. People hate Elisabeth Hasselbeck simply because her beliefs differ from theirs. It's been removed now, but one commenter actually stated that they wished she'd died in childbirth. She was also called "stupid" and "a whore". These kinds of personal attacks are inexcusable, particularly over differences in beliefs!

It is sad to me that, as far as we continue to progress, we still can't seem to be tolerant of different beliefs/views. I have such a wonderfully diverse range of friends – from conservative to liberal, from Christian to Atheist, from environmentalists to polluters (just kidding). The variety of views I get from my friends and family help me to learn and grow and sometimes shape or re-shape my own beliefs and perspectives. I don't like or dislike people based solely on their beliefs, though how someone presents their beliefs can sometimes be a real turn-off. That's usually related to the individual's overall personality and they'd probably not be a bosom buddy, even if their beliefs were completely different. Different perspectives, beliefs, attitudes, views are both inevitable and enriching if you are willing to look for common ground despite the points of disagreement.

Divergent views should never lead to personal loathing or rude, insulting behaviour. But somehow, politics (and religion) seems to be an area where people think it's okay to ignore basic human decency.

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