When Chris Matthews and Rush Limbaugh Got Along

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fightingI quit wearing my Alabama and Auburn gear this year.

I blame it on the lack of civility that’s growing in American society.

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Where I come from, people have irrational allegiances to one of the two major college football teams from the state and sometimes an irrational hatred of the other.

Oh, it’s all in good fun – at least it used to be. But lately I’ve decided things have gotten to the same point as it has in Washington political discourse. You’re either for us or again’ us, and if you’re again’ us, you must be the devil himself.

I’m not that old – but not that young, either – so I remember the day when you hated the spin but loved the spinner. I know I sound like Chris Matthews pining for the days of Tip and the Gipper punching each other all day, then sharing a belt that night, but even Mr. Matthews ain’t so big on practicing what he preaches.

The guy once guest-hosted The Rush Limbaugh Show of all things, and today he says that anyone who criticizes President Obama does so only because he doesn’t like it that a black man is living in the White House.

Matthews typifies the problem: Everybody generalizes.

Of course, for every MSNBC ranter there’s an equal and opposite Fox News Channel ranter. (See: O’Reilly, Bill re: “Christmas, War on.”)

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I myself have always enjoyed spirited debate with people I disagree with. But I’ve always found it hard to find anyone who wants to debate. They just want to put up their philosophical dukes.

When the Internet came along I got excited. My problems were solved, I figured, because I could find unlikeminded people who wanted to debate ideas without calling each other ugly names.

I could not have been less correct.

I’m interested in theology and found discussion groups for that. An answer to prayer! But, as they say, sometimes God’s answer is no. At other times, it’s, well, it’s simply no because God doesn’t cuss for emphasis.

You see, there are people on the Web who not only believe their theology is superior to everyone else’s, they think it’s perfectly fine to smart off to people who haven’t yet seen the light. I don’t want to single out any specific group, so for sake of discussion let’s just call them strong determinists. (You no doubt had coffee with one this morning.)

The convenient thing about good ole strong determinism is that it asserts God has pre-ordained whom he will save from the fires of hell, and there is nothing an individual can do to change it. So if you are strongly determined to be a Class-A jerk to those who disagree, it’s really not going to affect your eternal bliss, damnation or whatnot.

Just tooting my own horn

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I freelance for a conservative-leaning political news website. I have to watch politicians on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC all day and write about what they say. I write straight news pieces, just like when I worked for mainstream newspapers, but our readers care most about what Republicans are saying, so that’s what I write most about. Since I’m a shameless self-promoter, I tweet my stories, just like I did when I was writing about a tornado barreling through town.

But these politically related tweets inevitably draw ugly responses about the person being tweeted about.

Mind you, all I did was tweet “Ted Cruz calls John McCain a RINO” with a link to the story I wrote about it. I did not say “Ted Cruz is the greatest Cuban-Canadian-American of all time.” Nor did I say “Ted Cruz is coming to devour your babies.”

Still, I draw people aiming for a fight, because, hey, that’s what Twitter was invented for (even though your mother still thinks it was invented to tweet out what she ate for lunch.)

I just ignore the trolls, which makes them go away – until the next post. I can’t figure out why anyone so annoyed by my Twitter feed wouldn’t just unfollow me. I guess calling people vile and disgusting names is the new “spirited debate.”

The once liberal, now conservative Charles Krauthammer famous said, “Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.”

That’s the real problem. If you think your opponent is stupid, you have no real respect for his position. If you think your opponent is evil, you believe everything he says and does is equivalent to Satanism.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t debate things that are important. But ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments don’t respect anybody.

And it’s not just politics. People are getting beaten to the point of permanent incapacitation for wearing the gear of an opposing team to a “sporting” event. That’s why I quit wearing Alabama and Auburn gear.

I wasn’t afraid of being murdered, but some of the over-the-line stuff I see on Facebook is killing my soul.

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I used to have fun teasing both sides by wearing an Alabama ball cap with an Auburn T-shirt or vice versa. In Alabama, that’s the equivalent of wearing Red Sox and Yankees gear together.

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I even tried to get a car tag with both teams on it, but the only way to do that is to get one with “House Divided” written across the bottom. Such tags aren’t for people like me who root for both teams; they’re for people who root for the opposite team as their spouses.

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You are not allowed to be bipartisan – or bicollegiate.

E pluribus unum we are, and that makes us stronger. But too much division among the pluribus threatens the unum. Any society must have some set of shared values — even if its nothing more than “I don’t like what you say, but I’ll fight anybody who tries to keep you from saying it.”

As Lincoln warned us – and Jesus before him – a house divided against itself cannot stand.