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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Civility should not negate decisive arguments

In a lecture last Friday in the Kiva room of the Student Union Memorial Center, current National Endowment for the Humanities chairman Rep. Jim Leach (R.-Iowa) spoke of the importance of civil discourse in what he calls an increasingly socially divided time in American history. Leach, who served 30 years in the House of Representatives before he was appointed chairman of the NEH, developed an argument that was strongly in favor of a more “”polite and civilized”” method of politics.

“”Negativism attacks the soul of society,”” Leach said, before moving on to explain his perspective on the state politics, including metaphors involving baseball this author can’t claim to understand any more than she understands cricket. He posed the question, “”Can politics be as good as sports?””

Leach’s point is well made, given the increasingly polarized nature of the two main political parties in this country. In a game of baseball, Leach explained, one must “”respect the opponent, study what the opponent does.”” The advantages of sports over politics, according to Leach, are that while one includes referees and basic sportsmanship, the other is characterized by “”uncivil and corporate speech”” and “”language of enemies.””

Mr. Leach’s comments are especially timely in the tsunami-like wake of the current healthcare bill. From puerile name-calling to threats and actions of violence by both members of Congress and civilians, civil discourse is certainly a topic that is and should be at top of the proverbial citizen watch-list. But with all due respect to Leach, barring violence, radical ideas and provocative speech have a due place in the democratic process and should not be shamed or limited.

To apply Leach’s argument to the political process at the UA and in the state of Arizona, some more incendiary speech would bolster discussion and promote critical thinking among elected officials that might otherwise remain silent and stoic. A contentious vote is more desirable than a unanimous one: students would certainly have appreciated a regent who spoke out in any decisive manner against the proposed tuition increases, which were approved by an overwhelmingly wide margin. Likewise, constituents should appreciate the decisive statements made by Associated Students at the University of Arizona Sen. Daniel Wallace at last week’s senate meeting regarding the proposed special election for the Public Interest Rights Group. His condemnation of the proposed election was decisive and could be seen by some as “”negativism,”” but it promoted discussion and due consideration of the situation by ASUA senators. Before Wallace spoke out, it was speculated that PIRG’s fee-grubbing measures would pass unanimously.

Leach said, “”the logic is really the message,”” and as such, the logic here is a poor message for the process of government. While Leach is correct that civility and civic engagement are imperative to effective government, arguments both moderate and visionary should be appreciated and promoted.

— Anna Swenson is the sophomore majoring in English. She can be reached at

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