Our View: Rodeo stunt reflects sad state of today’s political discourse

August 13, 2013

We applaud Missouri State Fair Director Mark Wolfe and Missouri elected officials from both major political parties for their strong condemnation of the incident at the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association rodeo Saturday on the fairgrounds.

We believe the incident was in poor taste and crossed what should have been some very obvious lines given the venue the event was staged in, and we agree with Wolfe’s decision to ban the chief performer associated with the incident as well as plans to review the fair’s contract with MRCA.

While we leave it up to individuals to judge the potential racial overtones of the stunt, we believe any joke whose punchline hints at or celebrates the harming of a president of the United States — regardless of party or popularity — demeans everyone exposed to it.

However, we also believe that this incident did not occur in a vacuum and is indicative of a general degradation of our national political discourse.

In the age of the media soundbite and the 24-hour news cycle, it has become all too easy for thoughtful debate to be replaced by crude sniping, cruel invective and wild hyperbole.

Republicans still seek to label Obama a Marxist, and some continue to question his birth and loyalty to the nation. Likewise, Democrats continue to paint Republicans as uncaring xenophobes who are corrupted by the influence of big money donors.

While vigorous and sometimes confrontational political speech is the hallmark of a free society, our willingness to demonize, demagogue and dehumanize those who disagree with our personal political ideology continues to drive a sizable wedge between Americans of all political affiliations and contributes to the near standstill of gridlock between entrenched and hyper-partisan lawmakers in Jefferson City and Washington, D.C.

Condemning this one incident is well justified; condemning our lack of respect and, too often, open hatred for people who disagree with us should be treated with equal scorn.