You know, I think Jon Stewart may be on to something. Last week on the Daily Show, he played clips of members of Congress using images and appeals to September 11th as a way to procure support for the flag burning amendment. In each case, the direct implication was that the heroes, as well as the victims of 9/11, would uniformly rise up in support of the amendment and that any who did not were actually against these heroes and victims and were in favor of the terrorists. After playing the clips, Stewart went on to ask if these folks talk like this at home -- specifically as a way to control their children.
As a Christian, I have tended to use the “come let us reason together” approach to giving my daughter moral guidance. In fact, the positions I take with her are generally based upon my own study and reflection on how it is that God would have us all live together. So, I have tried to have her see how we are all to be engaged in “care for the least of these,” how we are to interact with each other with honesty and integrity, and how the life of Christ exemplifies for us the kind of life that pleases God (for more detail, go here). As all who have gone this way know, this is a very involved process. Think how much easier it would be to use the approach on our children that this administration and its supporters are so willing to use on us! When my daughter fails to finish her homework on time, I could go through that complicated process of getting her to see the long term problems she may be inviting. Or, I could take a short-cut, say something like, “Well, honey, if you choose to ignore your responsibilities, I guess you can; but know that the heroes of 9/11 are dishonored by your actions.” When she disagrees with me on value judgments, I could say, “Sure, you can disagree with me if you want, but my values are the values that made America great, and if you call those into question, you shame America and give aid and comfort to terrorists everywhere!” Or, maybe when she comes in late, I could say, “When you stay out late, it distracts my attention. The terrorists are just waiting for us to drop our guard so they can attack again!”
Now, seriously, this is all pretty ridiculous, isn’t it? And, yet, this is too frequently the level to which our political discourse has fallen. If you don’t have a serious argument or are too lazy to make one, you resort to cheap and degrading rhetoric that enlightens nothing and serves no purpose other than to manipulate one’s opponents. The current administration and its supporters have raised this to an art form, and the only way forward for rational discourse is to resist the temptation to join in the rhetorical buffoonery and to refuse to be swayed by it.
“Come, let us reason together...”