Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Minor Musing About Personality, Principle, And Civility

It's Saturday afternoon and I should be correcting final projects, but I'm cruising the blogophere and discovering all sorts of things that trouble me greatly. In light of my previous post, I suppose the theme for the day is pain and perversion.

Yesterday, Pat Powers asked a provocative question: Are intra-party political differences  basically personality driven or are they principle driven?

I used to teach Shakespeare's Julius Caesar regularly, and I thought the play described political disputes quite accurately. In the play, Caesar complains of Cassius's "lean and hungry look." Marc Antony responds that Cassius is a "noble Roman" . The noble Roman had earlier wondered "upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed?" and proclaimed "the fault . . . lies not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings." (Act I, sc 2) Shakespeare has lead me to believe that a desire for power or personal pride provides the fuel for most political squabbles. That belief put me in the "personality" camp.

I'm also in the personality camp because I believe the "how" is as important as the "what." If, in a weird alternate universe, I would agree with South Dakota blog bloviator Bob Ellis 100% of the time, I know that I would still take every opportunity to make him spit, sputter, and turn purple with rage because it would be fun. In that strange wonderland, he and I might vote for the same candidates in a general election, but never in a primary. It would be all about personality not principle.

Today, however, I came upon something that makes me doubt. Weekend blogging for The Washington Monthly, Kathleen Geier points to this Right Wing Watch Pete Santilli profile. Santilli hosts an Internet talk show that broadcasts conspiracy theories and attracts some high profile guests:
in the past couple of months, Santilli has attracted two major gun activists to his show: National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, who used the opportunity to call President Obama a Nazi, and Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt, who worked with Santilli to flesh out his theory that President Obama is raising a private army to overpower the U.S. military. Pratt, in particular, is taken remarkably seriously among the GOP – he has been partially credited with taking down a background checks measure in the Senate last month.
Santilli recently said the following:
I want to shoot [Clinton] right in the vagina and I don't want her to die right away; I want her to feel the pain and I want to look her in the eyes and I want to say 'on behalf of all Americans that you've killed, on behalf of the Navy SEALS,' ... the families of Navy SEAL Team Six who were involved in the fake hunt down of this Obama bin Laden thing, that whole fake scenario - because these Navy SEALS know the truth, they killed them all - on behalf of all of those people, I'm supporting our troops by saying we need to try, convict, and shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina. Anybody opposed to that, you are a domestic enemy.
Although his calling Hillary Clinton “[t]his ‘C U Next Tuesday,’ Hillary Clinton” would indicate otherwise, Santilli apparently isn't a sexist when it comes to doing violence. Earlier in the show, he expressed his desire to shoot President Obama, former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush along with former Florida governor Jeb Bush "in the loins."

I don't know if Santilli can be seen as someone whom one opposes merely because of his alleged personality. Remarks like his destroy the very civility that make political discourse possible; opposing Santilli and those who give legitimize him seems to be the most principled thing one can do.

If one wants to listen, the show can found here.

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