Monday, January 07, 2008

End the "bloody" political "warfare"

Of course it is the season of the political cliché. The best known and weariest is the “horse race.” Because it so dominates press coverage, it deprives the public of what it needs to know — namely candidates' stands on issues.

But give me the “horse race” anytime over the metaphor of the political “battle.” It’s everywhere and editors seem to thrive on the “jousts,” “attacks,” “taking hits” and “batterings” that their reporters and headline writers so thoughtlessly serve up too the public.

On the front page of today’s New York Times two stories shared a headline: “Two Political Warriors, Back on a Favorite Battleground.”

Bill Clinton and John McCain are “warriors,” but at one time or another all the candidates have been described as "battlers" or "victims" or "casualties" of political warfare. New Hampshire is the “battleground,” but it is only one of several s0-called “battleground states.”

The Press isn’t the only party to blame for the bloody, belligerent and brutal hyperbole. Politicians themselves have “attack ads” and “war rooms” etc.

Of the many harmful consequences of infusing politics with militaristic language, two stand out. First, the public wants to seek refuge from the political process. We become refugees from media coverage and many of us, statistics show, no longer vote at all. Small wonder.

Instead, we should, at the very least, become vocal conscientious objectors to such objectionable, demeaning language.

Second, the drumbeat of violent language drains meaning and significance from real war and institutionalizes and normalizes militaristic behavior. We come to expect some kind of war or military intervention every four years or so. Like the bare-knuckled election cycle, we have a war cycle. The arms industry thrives on it.

We, the public should demand that every editor and candidate in this country direct their charges to mothball the sad and destructive metaphor of war and fighting.

Instead, let's have a peaceful politics of sweet reason in which debate is, as it should be, constructive.

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