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Yeah, you heard me. Have we all lost our freakin' minds?

It's been a rough couple of days over in the Middle East, and that has translated to a rough couple of days here. It seems like every other diary I read devolves rapidly into a flame war. All the flamethrowers have come out, both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian/Lebanese, and anti-everybody too. As tends to happen when the flame wars begin, discussion stops. We're no longer talking to each other. We're screaming past each other. There is no respectful give-and-take. There is no vigorous debate. There is no search for truth or solutions to problems. There is only juvenile competition to see who can come up with the most creative way to tell another kossack to go fuck him/herself, the most inappropriate Nazi comparison, and the most offensive way to curse another kossack's descendants or question the sexual virture of his/her family. I've seen exchanges in which kossacks I'd previously thought to be friends traded horrible insults. Feelings have been hurt and relationships damaged, some possibly irreparably.

So I ask again: have we all lost our freakin' minds?

We've spent a fair bit of time this week mocking the vast right-wing conspiracy's claim that we're imploding here. Were we wrong to do so? Are we going to rip each other to shreds over a single issue, albeit a very contentious one?

What happened to respectful discussion? What happened to basing arguments in fact and evidence rather than emotion? What happened to debating the issues without invoking scatology (any discussion involving Virginia's third senator, humor, or gratuitous but harmless profanity exempted)?

The facts of the matter are Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, they did commit an act of war or terrorism against Israel, they are a substantial part of the Lebanese government, and Israel is permitted by international law to retaliate. The facts are also that Israel doesn't appear to have even paid lip service to diplomacy as a potential solution, their response is a dangerous escalation in effect if not in intent, they are causing substantial loss of life and property for people who have nothing to do with Hezbollah, and there are better ways to punish Hezbollah without hurting innocent people. Neither side is blameless here; both sides have legitimate grievances. If you can't deal with any of those facts, either provide concrete proof to the contrary or accept that you're not firmly rooted in reality. No talking points; no "they did it first, no they did it first"; no "they had it coming"; no "legitimate target." Evidence or nothing. And none of the "concern for human life" arguments either -- if there's anything that's absolutely indisputable here, it's that neither side has shown any great concern for human life.

Debate is welcome. Respectful discussion is welcome. The ideas of a wide variety of people, expressed not for the purpose of scoring points but to try to determine a genuine solution that will work in the real world, are welcome. Those are the things that make this site so powerful. Those are the things that make us so powerful -- that we can embrace a diverse group of people and a diverse set of ideas while treated everyone fairly. Engaging people with whom we share many common values in a respectful manner and trying to find a way to end the hostilities in this volatile situation enhances our credibility. Flaming each other plays into the hands of the Rethugs. United, we have the strength to fight them on every issue that is important to us, and the influence to help elect officials who will act in our best interests rather than their own. Divided against ourselves, we get the Karl Rove version of democracy -- and it looks a lot like fascism to me.

Ultimately, that's what has been gnawing at me the past couple of days. We live in a world with a lot of problems, and though it is a tremendous problem, the current violence in the Middle East is one of many issues that are not being treated by our leaders with the thought and seriousness they require. BushCo is trying to appoint the Torture Judge, who it is now revealed lied to Congress about his role in developing the administration's anti-human rights positions. nyceve has another real life horror story for us about healthcare in this country. We have midterm elections coming up, with a very real chance to take back one or both houses of Congress. There's another attempt by BushCo to hide their abuses in the illegal domestic spying program. We have a president who thinks he's above the law -- I know, it's a shock to me, too, that he can think at all. We're well into overtime on an illegal, immoral, unnecessary war, one that BushCo had to lie about to get us into in the first place. We have lots of bigots in government. Crime is up. There are people being run out of their homes and threatened with death by Christofascists. Wingnuts are working hard to ban abortion and enshrine hatred into state constitutions by banning same-sex marriages and civil unions. We have a president who lies about the effects of his tax policies and shifts the tax burden toward those members of our society who can least afford the added burden.

The issues that unite us are far greater and far more numerous than the issues that divide us. If we are as wise and noble as we ought to be, we can discuss the issues that divide us without resorting to flame wars, no matter how passionately we disagree with each other. And we can make the wingnuts look like the jackasses they are.

Originally posted to וויסקמס on Fri Jul 14, 2006 at 08:36 PM PDT.

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