During a press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed her concern over the hateful tone used by anti-healthcare reform activists and others who criticize of the president.
“I have concerns about some of the language that is being used because I saw … I saw this myself in the late ’70s in San Francisco,” Pelosi said. Pelosi is referencing the assassinations of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in 1978. Milk was the first openly gay man elected to public office and Moscone was an ally in city politics.
Milk’s election in 1978 caused considerable anger in California and across the nation. Milk and his friends faced multiple death threats during his campaign and after the election. Eventually these threats culminated in his and Moscone’s assassinations by former city Supervisor Dan White, Milk’s principal opponent.
My long explanation of the history behind the Speaker’s comments leads me to this point: pay attention to Nancy Pelosi.
The Speaker is seen by most of the country as a “my way or the highway” politician. She is undoubtedly the most powerful woman in politics. Because of her demeanor, she is not well-liked by many and is often the focus of criticism. But to see a woman with Pelosi’s reputation get emotional at a press conference is worth taking note. Nancy Pelosi lived through the assassinations and the subsequent riots by the gay community.
How many signs have we seen on TV calling President Obama ‘”Hitler,” or calling him a socialist and the like? How many interviews have we seen where people claim that the president is a communist, that he is a closet Muslim, and so on? How much hatred has been directed at the president (and his party) in the past eight months?
To be fair, there was a great amount of criticism of former President Bush for his actions concerning the war in Iraq and the federal mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina. But never was the criticism and protest of President Bush as heated and hate-filled in such a short time as the protest of President Obama.
This country was founded on the principle of freedom to protest, to speak, to write, and generally, to disagree with one another. We all enjoy and use these rights to various ends. However, just because we have these rights does not mean we should demean and spread hatred about one another to achieve our political goals.
What Nancy Pelosi offers is the path to respectful disagreement. Proponents and opponents of the president are free to disagree, but the dialogue should never turn to hateful, demeaning attacks.
Here’s to hoping we can learn to talk to each other about our problems instead of shooting the other side down or, in the worst case, making those who disagree with you into something they are not.
Patrick Yoxall is a freshman history major from Auburn, Ala.