To the Editor:
I am disappointed to see that The Bee has chosen to elevate Mr Brendan Duffy’s January letter [Letter Hive, 1/11/13, “Elected Officials Are Fundamentally Dishonest”] for praise. His is an extremist and reactionary view. There is nothing patriotic about threatening to take up arms to overthrow a democratically elected government. If you believe that our government needs restructuring, then you elect people who demand it. If you think the courts are making destructive decisions, you choose presidents and governors who appoint the justices and judges who won’t. If you don’t like the decisions of our elected officials, you vote them out. If you can’t, it is because the majority of Americans are on board with those decisions. I am proud of our system, and not all elected officials are “fundamentally dishonest.” What makes our nation great is our devotion to democracy, individual rights and freedoms, and the rule of law. Democracy is impeded when free speech is limited. Free speech is not only limited by governments, it is also limited by angry gun toting extremists.
Let’s take a look at some growing trends and movements that Mr Duffy’s letter brings to mind: reactionaries claim that the moral decadence of liberals is destroying the nation; paramilitary groups form and drill for action against a perceived enemy (internal or external); a growing belief that the leaders are secretly determined to destroy the nation and betray its people; lies and propaganda being embraced by the masses as truth; political polarization so ponderous that centrists are attacked by both left and right. Sound familiar? This is actually a description of Germany in the early 1930s. It describes the vortex of historical forces that brought down the democratically elected Weimar Republic and replaced it with Adolf Hitler.
The lesson from history is this: polarization is the enemy. Anger and fear interfere with rational thought. Rational thought is what unites us, while angry political rhetoric divides us. The one side’s angry fear-driven venom causes the other side to recoil and there is no meaningful dialogue. If many masses of people have come to the rational conclusion that the Second Amendment should protect the right to buy high capacity magazines and assault rifles, the other side should listen carefully to them and try to follow their train of thought. But, by the same token, if masses of people have used their rational faculties to come to the conclusion that a women’s right to an abortion should be protected, they too should be listened to with an empathetic ear.
I have no political opinions to express, I want only for you to understand this: Anger and fear motivate the extremists to shout very loudly. We who understand the danger in their message need to be just as passionate in speaking out against extremists of any variety and speaking in favor of common sense, respectful dialogue, and a measured devotion to the common good. Ranting and raving is easy. Anyone can do it. Careful investigation and rational discourse takes a cool head and a lot of work. Too bad it doesn’t usually make the headlines.
Randi Allen Kiely
18 Botsford Hill Road, Newtown March 27, 2013