You complain about this, and you’re just an old so-and-so

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By Steve Doyle

You learned it in grade school. You said it from time to time to time. Too bad you didn’t absorb it.

I’m rubber, and you’re glue. What you say bounces off me and sticks to you.

Wouldn’t it be so much better in the world if that were true for all of us, if the worrisome words we heard just bounced off and went right back to the source to be absorbed anew, carrying with them a lesson of truth and humanity for all of us?

I say this of course because of the awful state of public discourse in the Land of the Free, where every contrary opinion these days is viewed and rebuked with the most acidic bile a body can produce.

You don’t like one of our leaders and you say so, you can expect to be called something vile and personal.

You support the president on just about anything, and someone loudly suggests you are Josef Stalin’s next-of-kin.

You question our war efforts in the Middle East, and you’re called un-American.

And, worse, if you believe that our glaciers are melting and our exhausts are expediting that, then you’re called something akin to idiot or dummy.

No matter the cause, no matter your perspective, you can expect any opinion you have to be smacked right back in your face, as if you’d thrown a slow, straight one to Albert Pujolz.

I’m not sure when things started to become this way, but I think it must have been about the time Communism fell in the Soviet Union. We didn’t have anyone else to berate, so we turned on each other.

Not that brotherly love always was our national pastime. You ever go to a ball game in the City of Brotherly Love. Those people are ruthless.

But, sports aside, mostly we just railed on each other for, oh, the color of our skin, our ethnicity or the place where we grew up.

Now we take that sledgehammer to just about any pebble of an idea.

To be called a Conservative or a Liberal is to be the object of the slurs and epithets of the new millennium.

Given that, let’s take this issue of health-care reform, which, so passionately debated, has evolved into not just an exchange of analysis about the various options being offered but an assault on the people doing the suggesting. In this one, you are a bad person for what you think, no matter which side you have chosen.

Since when is any idea a bad idea until proven so? Why can’t thoughts be expressed and kicked around, rather than having the speaker kicked around?

Some of you would argue that I’m guilty of this very sin for my consistent condemnation of talk-show hosts, whose vile verbosity and hypnotic hyperbole can in one day’s worth of wind blow a spark of a thought into a forest fire of controversy.

Maybe the cable TV shows are part of the problem. They set an example of insincere invective that we seem to be emulating. Heaven help the next generation with all the wonderful examples out there for them today.

Lee and Grant had a warmer relationship than most of the folks we see today, and they were trying to kill each other. At least some of the Hatfields and McCoys liked one another.

Wasn’t life a lot simpler when you just hated someone else for their skin color? It was all rather black and white, wasn’t it?

But this is where we are. We express a thought and expect to be called something awful.

Somehow I don’t think this was what Henry David Thoreau had in mind when he helped enlighten us about civil disobedience.

There is a lot of disobedience going on, but not much of it has been civil.