We seem to be at the bottom of the civility scale in public discourse. First, everyone who has or puts forth an opinion about anything remotely political, must be labeled. There are tons of labels: progressive, conservative, liberal, neo conservative, tea party, the christian right, and on and on.

Each label brings with it the opportunity to derogate. It seems that the very act of  labeling takes away the possibility of civil discourse.

Looking at whatever the tea party is, see, I am struggling with the label already, it seems to me that it really isn’t a thing but rather a seemingly diverse portion of the population who share at least some of the following beliefs: a desire for smaller government, the reduction of government spending, lower taxes, the primacy of the constitution and the individual, and the reduction/elimination of the national debt.

Now just by creating such a list I am already in trouble with labeling. If you are a tea party person, you believe in the list, right? Well, I suspect that isn’t universally true. We are all too complex and rarely do we see things so completely in sync with the next person.

This diversity does not matter. It is too hard to attack a target so diverse, therefore, I must create a label. Now, a full on attack is possible.

Now I can derogate to my heart’s and my agenda’s delight and purpose respectively.

How about the labeled? How do they feel?

Some, I suspect, feel great. They feel validated by their label. While a bit sad, I imagine there is a belonging aspect to this.

On the other side, these feelings of the labeled often inhibit or influence constructive dialog.

The other day, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, was recorded by a microphone that he did not realize was live. He said, “[I] always use the word extreme, that’s what the caucus instructed me to do the other week, extreme cuts and all these riders, and [House Speaker] Boehner’s in a box. But if he supports the Tea Party there’s going to inevitably [be] a shutdown.”

Now I am naive, I know, politics is politics, right? How helpful is this, though?

I guess I will just slip back into my cloud of idealism and naiveté. Who knew it would reappear at this ripe old age?

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