Commentary

"Civil Discourse" from a Democrat legislator

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Pat Wellenbach / AP Photo

By now you’ve heard the story of Democrat Rep. Chuck Kruger and his tweet saying he would like to see former president Cheney meet, “the same final end he gave Sadaam.” The democrats in the legislature didn’t denounce the tweet, didn’t ask him to resign, and more or less pretended it never happened.

Now, another democrat legislator is getting some attention for her “civility.”

A couple days ago, The Bangor Daily News ran an opinion piece from Jill Saxby, the head of the Maine Council of Churches, a group that says it is an, “ecumenical community of nine denominations dedicated to the vision of a sustainable, just, and compassionate world.”

The article touted the groups “Covenant for Civil Discourse” a pledge they hope candidates will sign onto. According to Saxsby, “It has become harder for anyone to be heard without shouting. Outrage — and outrageousness — get attention. Among those lamenting the decay of civil discourse in recent years are many of Maine’s religious folks. In response, the Maine Council of Churches developed a “Covenant for Civil Discourse.”

In the article, Saxsby notes that Democrat Cynthia Dill, who is running for Senate, is a recent signer of the pledge. Dill also trumpeted her own signing of the bill through twitter:

Here are the six points on the pledge:

  1. To act respectfully toward others, including those who oppose me/us in public debate, and to attempt to understand others’ point(s) of view. I/we would extend this attitude of respect to all those engaged in civil discourse in America.
  2. To refrain from personal attacks, while maintaining the right to vigorously disagree.
  3. To refrain from making statements which characterize my/our opponents as evil.
  4. To refuse to make untrue statements in defense of my/our position.
  5. To value honesty, truth, and civility while striving to find workable solutions.
  6. To expect any person, party, campaign or organization working on my behalf, or to whom I contribute money, to meet these same standards for civil discourse

Hopefully, for Cynthia’s sake, this pledge isn’t enforced retroactively. The state legislator from Cape Elizabeth, Dill is a regular blogger (her blog posts re-run on Huffington Post and she has paid herself to run the blog from a PAC) and she has been anything but civil in many of her posts.

Here is a quick look at some of Cynthia’s quotes from her blog. You can decide for yourself which of the six pledge points she would be violating in each post.

The first comes from a post titled, Whose Benefits Would Jesus Cut? – Included in Dill’s post, about a visiting reverend who opened the legislative session with prayer, were these “civil” gems:

Reverend Tracey concluded his morning tirade with these words. “But now a new day has dawned, and a new congress has convened, and a new hope and enthusiasm fills this great chamber.”

The manifestation of right-wing political extremists appeared before them disguised as a man of faith. With eyes closed and heads down, some lawmakers had flashbacks to the campaign trail when myths of “welfare cheats” spun like course wool.

In another post, Dill attacks Mary Adams, a conservative grassroots leader and frankly, one of the kindest people this author has ever met:

Adams is a veteran right-winger who is game for any cause that reminds her of redcoats. She is from Garland, Maine (south of Millinocket) and the local face of the angry mob that’s crippling America.

The Maine Tea Party and Adams’ opposition to a national park serves as a proxy for the anti-government shtick they like to jump up and down and scream about, as our public institutions and infrastructure crumble.

The “civil discourse” continues from Dill, who does not seem to have found a disrespectful statement she doesn’t like. She said in another post, apparently aimed at men who struggle with their weight:

Maybe the real load doomed to sink us is related to the girth of some of the guys running things around here.

The rallying cry today is about personal responsibility and cutting spending. We talk about women and their good looks, but don’t talk about men and their big guts. We should.

It’s time to talk openly about many of the men in charge today in the media, in politics and in office who want to drastically cut the size of government. They are under a different type of illusion. They say they want smaller government but they are fat, and getting fatter by the minute.

In the same post, she seems to follow rule number 1 very closely. You would say this is an “attitude of respect” right?

It’s all a bunch of garbage that distorts the facts, but the anti-government mantra has convinced lots of people that it wasn’t the fat cats on Wall Street who screwed us…

Dill offers another post aimed specifically at males, and leads with a personal attack (see point 2 of the pledge) on our own M.D. Harmon, who clearly had irritated Dill with his viewpoint:

Sitting in his ivory tower reserved for men only in Portland, Maine, M.D. Harmon lectures readers about the myriad uses of irony while blaming “feminists” for a world where boys are valued much higher than girls.

Here in Maine, as elsewhere, talk radio is dominated by angry obese men who lecture about personal responsibility.

And here the newspapers are saturated with written opinions of male editors, economists, businessmen, and conservative curmudgeons like Harmon, an editorial writer for the Portland Press Herald.

Harmon is a man who plays God by judging women for playing God.

Another post by Ms. Dill, with a particularly “civil” headline, Maine’s Weapon of Mass Destruction, was a direct attack of the Maine Heritage Policy Center.

So why is our Governor trying to scare the bejeezus out of us?

But what started as festering liberal rage toward the Bush administration in need of a steam valve has evolved over time. Now bewilderment has pivoted to right-wing sirens Palin and Bachman, and talk-show blowhards Beck and Limbaugh.

There’s no shortage of people willing to cry wolf at the Maine Heritage Policy Center, however, because there doom and gloom grease the cogs of one big lucrative machine. Red tape is not a problem for the business that fear-mongers for dollars.

Those are obviously very “civil” comments, especially about Palin and Bachman. Dill seems eager to launch her attacks at males, but it looks she will branch out to females when their views don’t align with her own. She also attacked, with some fervor, the former head of MHPC, Tarren Bragdon:

he [Tarren] told us, presumably from his luxury, non-profit corner office where the riff-raff can’t bother him with petty concerns of poverty, illiteracy and the administration of justice.

If you know Tarren, or  any of his four children adopted out of impoverished foreign countries, you know this vicious personal attack by Dill is just plain untrue. (Oh hey, that violates pledge rules 2 and 4 at the same time!)

In another ranting post, Dill suggests that women can take care of their problems by carrying heavy-duty handguns, and takes another swing at overweight individuals:

Every single one of us needs to venture out to Walmart and exchange that rice steamer we got for Christmas for something practical like a .38 special. Angry fanatics are becoming increasingly more popular and can be a real time-suck. If we must put up with these guys, let’s be efficient.

Today angry, whale-sized, and stupid seem to be the measures of American authenticity, as if God pressed “reverse” on the natural selection dial for kicks.

In yet another post, Dill can’t believe there is a group that wants to make sure Aspergers Syndrome continues to be recognized:

A sense of humor and a diagnosis will make 2011 easier for incoming lawmakers, but even the world of psychiatry has its share of political skirmishes. Some of the shrinks on the DSM drafting committee are lobbying to get rid of the Asperger Syndrome category. An opposition group has formed, called “Keep Asperger’s Syndrome in the DSM-V.” Seriously.

Some additional highlights from the Cynthia Dill manual of “civil discourse”:

  • Luckily this disease can be easily treated with alcohol and a cold shower, two things Democrats tolerate extremely well.
  • If you are drowning in 12 feet of water, a moderate Republican will throw you six feet of rope.
  • We didn’t make a big stink about the inexperienced friends and family of the Governor (also a fun-gi) being appointed to his cabinet. We are letting sleeping dogs lie while we brew up an ancient elixir sure to bring down the House.
  • Crazy right-wingers in the Congress are so busy trying to dismantle the social safety net, gut and “investigate” programs for women and kids that they don’t have time to balance the budget.
  • Is Maine’s “business-friendly” governor and his henchmen shouting this good news from the roof tops?
  • Angry anti-government guys calling the gift of private property for the purpose of creating a public park a “government takeover,” with references to Nazi Germany is the Maine echo of the Glenn Beck ideology and it’s not going to solve our welfare problem, or any other problem.

Cynthia did JUST sign the pledge, and hey, at least she didn’t say she hoped a former vice-president would be executed.  So maybe she really has had a change of heart, and will strive to be civil in her campaign for Senate.

And maybe when she blogs she won’t call people “whales” “henchmen” “curmudgeons” “angry” “blowhards” or “fat” anymore.

About M.D. Harmon

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: mdharmoncol@yahoo.com

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