American Elephants


Um…Can we talk? by The Elephant's Child

Is there something wrong with a good argument? How do you progress if your ideas never have to stand up to a challenge? Our country was founded on the idea of vigorous debate.

Those who wrote the new Constitution of 1787 and those who supported it could foresee that a clear vote against it in the State ratifying conventions could doom the experiment in democratic government in its infancy. As constitutions go, it is a short document, encouraging debate in every clause. “Each House may determine the Rules of the Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour; and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.” What greater invitation to debate could you have?

Alexander Hamilton, in an effort to win over his home State of New York, began a series of essays explaining and defending the Constitution. These were published in New York City newspapers under the pseudonym Publius. Two other advocates of this new form of government, James Madison and John Jay, added their contributions. The efforts of these three men resulted in The Federalist Papers, an analysis of the Constitution and an enduring classic of political philosophy. And, perhaps most of all, it was an invitation to discussion and debate.

Discussion and debate were different in a time when books were somewhat rare and there was no radio, no television, and communication with other towns depended on a fast horse. Today we are deluged with printed material, and constant commentary from instant messaging to town hall meetings. We are in communication with the entire world. There is no shortage of ability to debate, and now that we are in a campaign for the Presidency of the United States, there are formal debates — Obama was just complaining about 21 debates — and yet…

The debates are curiously lacking in substance. There are serious matters that need discussion. The foolish effort to put the world’s food into our gas tanks, the curious reluctance to drill for the oil that we know is there. The notion that to increase gas mileage we only have to make a law. There is the strange, gullible belief that there must be some other viable form of energy out there that will solve all our problems, and the closest we can get to real substance is threatening the oil companies and offering to temporarily remove the gas tax for the summer. Could we talk sensibly about nuclear power? Could we discuss the portion of ANWR that was set aside for drilling? Instead we are talking about re-negotiating Free Trade pacts, an insult to our allies. We are pretending that manufacturing jobs have been lost, not to technology, but to NAFTA, which has been a benefit to the three countries involved, and nobody really wants to re-negotiate.

Two candidates are advocating socialized medicine, which has never worked anywhere. Could we debate? Not a chance. Can we talk about the value of cutting the capital gains tax, or reducing corporate taxes to the level of other countries? Can we talk about whether highway funds should be used for other projects? How about importing medicine from other countries? How about a discussion about terrorism, or don’t we believe in that any more. Could we discuss the belief that climate change is a natural phenomenon? Don’t make me laugh.

You could come up with your own list of subjects that need to be discussed, and probably few of them are matters that are part of the current campaign.

Those who disagree with the opinions held by the Left are to be silenced. They will be attacked, smeared, accused, repudiated, denounced. What they will not be — is debated. Yet every advance made by humanity is made through trial and error. We learn by discussing and arguing. We learn from mistakes.

Because we are so reluctant to argue and debate, the public often does not understand what is involved in an issue. When the press departs from objectivity and becomes an advocate, they deprive the public of needed information. When arguments become emotional struggles to win at all costs, liberty is the victim. When someone is smeared instead of debated, it becomes harder to get citizens to stand up for what they believe.




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