Lessons on Leaving Rhetoric Behind

political womenThere is a cliche about politics being dirty business. I spent some time interning on the Hill and for a lobbyist. That brief experience scorched my dreams of working in public service. I learned then that there’s not much service involved in being a public servant. Working in politics was not going to assuage my grandiose idealism. The egos, the suits, the handshakes, and the winks just didn’t settle my gut. Being forced to wear pantyhose in the humid Washington, D.C. summer didn’t help the situation.

What I wanted then, as I do now, was to speak up and out for the disenfranchised and silenced among us. I wanted to make the world just and joyful. I have yet to figure out how to do that, but politics surely isn’t the way. I still tote my Shangri-La values around and sprinkle them like stardust on everything I touch. I am admittedly compassionate and idealistic to a fault.


Counter to my Shangri-La fairy dust is Jay Townsend’s acid that he wants to “hurl at those female democratic senators.” Do you need a moment to read that again? Hollywood can’t even make this stuff up. But real life sheds light on this horror in the film Saving Face. I have read the book Half the Sky, and it profoundly moved me. I was left breathless and teary after reading it. In a nutshell, the book is about the plight of women and girls all over the world. There are atrocities happening to females of all ages, including in my native India. Among those atrocities is throwing acid in women’s faces. Do you have any idea what harm that causes? To speak of “hurling acid” is not rhetoric or hyperbole. This is happening to women right this very second. It is an unspeakable act that leaves no room for jokes or an avenue to make emphatic point. Jay Townsend is unfit for public service, especially as a GOP spokesman.

It is NEVER appropriate to instigate violence against women. If we disagree with each other should we resort to vicious violent attacks? This vernacular of violence must stop. Is this the American way? Are our leaders not role models? While I saw dirty business in Washington, I never experienced anything close to what Jay Townsend has spurred. Even Sarah Palin’s crosshairs pale in comparison. Surely all sides of the political spectrum can agree on this. The lesson of values starts at home. We must equip our children to learn how to navigate their way when faced with dissenting opinions. Striking out is unproductive and harmful.

As parents, we owe it to our children to model and teach how to speak out in a respectful manner. Rage as an emotion is natural. Rage in action is unacceptable.

  • For starters, let’s leave the rhetoric behind. Rhetoric is inflamed speech that is not necessarily grounded in fact or logic.
  • Argue points based on reason. Emotion adds fuel and passion, but emotion alone provides no foundation for an argument.
  • Stop the name calling.
  • Bullying isn’t just physical; verbal assaults are a form of bullying.
  • Choose our words wisely.
  • Accept that compromise and defeat are not synonymous.
  • Respect other viewpoints.
  • Think of other’s paradigms.

I have worked hard to state my views and share my stories while respecting differences. I work hard to avoid finger pointing and incendiary language in my writing. My idealistic ways are very much still a part of me. I haven’t been too jaded over the years (and believe me, those internship days were back when Madonna still used her last name). I want my sons to value differences and learn to compromise, not bully their way through life. I have pledged to work in unison. I hope you do too.

This post is part of a weekly conversation with our Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. To see the original question and see what all the bloggers had to say, read Can Moms Set a Higher Standard When It Comes to Talking Politics?

Image via US Senate

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