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2011-09-29 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

Coliseum Would Be An Appropriate Setting For GOP Debate
By Charles Rogers

I was appalled, disgusted and, well, shocked two weeks ago while viewing the Republican debate in California where the audience — not the candidates — left me with the impression that they were attending a rally at the Coliseum in Rome circa 30 B.C.

No, they didn’t “boo” their choice for the GOP candidacy...not much anyway. Nor did they condemn them, although they might as well have and probably would have if the attitudes they wore on their sleeves meant anything.

What they did was give an indication of the lack of civility that seems to be pervading the country lately.

I thought my ears were deceiving me when, after candidate Governor Rick Perry of Texas was asked about the number of executions that had taken place in his state, the audience burst out with applause and cheers. One would have thought Perry had just hit a home run. The minute the words “death penalty” were uttered, I half expected the television camera to frame the audience closely, the better to see the hands clapping and the hundreds of thumbs pointing down, as if we were watching a Roman gladiator battle and the people were full of bloodlust.

Are there those who still hold this kind of mindset? I don’t mean whether we are for or against the death penalty. That’s a separate argument with its own pros and cons. It’s the mentality that still urges people to cheer when they hear of the thought of putting a man or woman to death — no matter what the reason; like an old movie where crowds gather around the guillotine just waiting to see the head drop into a wicker basket.

Another debate: Rep. Ron Paul, also of Texas, who is a doctor by trade, is a conservative from the word “go” and was asked what he would do about a person who does not have health insurance but would be in need of urgent medical attention. Paul’s answer was that the man should not be the government’s responsibility and “that’s what freedom is all about; taking your own risks.” In this case, Paul’s voice was drowned out by audience applause and cheers, as if to support the idea that letting the man die would be the preferred alternative. If he doesn’t want to join the mandated health plan, then don’t let him in the hospital. Period. Lock the gates. Secure the key!

Is there anything more to be said? We know Ron Paul and Rick Perry don’t want people to die. And we know, in most cases, those audience members, if given the choice would give more thought to it than they did while viewing their candidates on stage. Their emotional outbursts — in both instances — were indicative of what might have been perceived at an earlier time in life; in their lives anyway.

I thought we were beyond that; beyond the blind non-emotion that makes us different from the lower rungs of so-called humanity. Even non-human animals don’t urge other animals to kill.

That bears repeating: Even animals don’t urge other animals to kill.

It would be easy to ask what we have become as we look at the faces of those turning their thumbs down at the thought of a victim being torn to death by the victor of a battle between gladiators, but to what end do we even have to ask? Take another look at the faces of those who cheered at the thought of a hospital turning a sick person away because he couldn’t pay his bill.

Far fetched? Probably. But nevertheless, to hear the audience at a political forum debase their own humanity is a lesson in cynicism that would be hard to unlearn.

We have to mark this up to immaturity, but still wonder how much of an impression it can make on others. Do we still look like we’re more civilized than, say, those in other countries who seem to have less respect for life?

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