Should we be fearful of political violence?  Speaker Nancy Pelosi thinks so, and said that the current rhetoric reminds her of what she witnessed in San Francisco in the 1970s.  ABC News has a video of this statement.  Transcript below.

Q: Madam Speaker, in terms of the political tone, the tone of the debate, Hoyer said earlier this week he thought it was the most vitriolic since ’93-’94. And around that time we also saw acts of domestic violence, domestic terrorism. How concerned are you about the tone of the political debate, in terms of people talking about anti-government rhetoric and so on and the possibility of violence?

Speaker Pelosi: Well, I think we all have to take responsibility for our actions and our words. We are a free country, and this balance between freedom and safety is one that we have to carefully balance.

I have concerns about some of the language that is being used because I saw this, myself, in the late ’70s in San Francisco. This kind of rhetoric was very frightening, and it created a climate in which violence took place.

So I wish that we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made, so that understanding that some of the people — the ears that it is falling on are not as balanced as the person making the statement might assume.

But, again, our country is great because people can say what they think and they believe. But I also think that they have to take responsibility for any incitement that they may cause.

What happened in the late 70’s in San Francisco?  Well let’s see, oh yeah, the first openly gay man to win political office, Harvey Milk who was a county supervisor was assassinated in 1978.  Milk along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone was shot  by former supervisor Dan White.  So basically she’s equating what is being seen in Tea Parties to political assassination.

We do need to maintain civility.  It is important, especially for those who are Christ-followers.  That doesn’t mean we can’t voice dissent.  Chuck Colson yesterday had an excellent commentary on civility that we should all put into practice.

Columnist Pat Buchanan recently observed that “we seem not only to disagree with each other more than ever, but to have come almost to detest one another. Politically, culturally, racially, we seem ever ready to go for each others’ throats.”

But civility is a precondition for democratic dialogue. And civility is mandatory for Christians; Jesus told us to love our enemies, which would exclude us from making vicious verbal attacks against them.

I can’t excuse Rep. Wilson’s outburst. But I do understand his frustration. For months, President Obama himself has been repeatedly accusing his opponents of lying about his health care plan—just as he did in his speech before Congress. Even liberal CNN says Obama’s regular use of the word “lie” is “unstatesmanlike.”

Speaker Pelosi’s statement, however, does nothing to advance civility, and actually invites a lack of it.  By the way those scary, angry astroturf mobs that showed up at the 9/12 Tea Party in DC – zero arrests.  Real violent people, let me tell you.

3 comments
  1. I think you’re looking for trouble that isn’t necessarily here. In fact, in the City, rhetoric did –indeed– lead to the loss of human life. Anyone who sounds a warning based on recognizing similar rhetoric should not be condemned. At most, you can accuse them of alarmist tendencies. However, even in the midst of Bill Clinton’s sex scandal with Monica Lewinski (where he did, in fact, LIE under oath) he was not cat-called on the floor of the House. There is *no* excuse for Wilson’s behavior, and he should be used as an example of what is WRONG with American politics. He isn’t a hero; he’s a boor.

    1. @Adam, I disagree with Speaker Pelosi. There has not been violence instigated by town hall groups. I’m not condemning her, I’m just pointing out that her comment wasn’t civil, nor has she been civil in her comments about town hall participants. And I am not defending Representative Wilson I’ve pointed out (and have been criticized for doing it) that he crossed the line and that he needed to apologize.

      However, the vote yesterday was the height of hypocrisy for the Democrats though. Let’s not forget though how the Democrats in Congress spoke about President Bush and the fact he was booed in a Joint Session of Congress in 2005. That is equally inappropriate.

      President Obama also needs to clean up his rhetoric as he has not been above the fray and seems to be ok calling people liars as well.

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