I have been coaching speakers of all kinds, from all walks of life, from every continent, from every age bracket, from every economic strata, and from every social class for more than 45 years. I have coached through times of peace and times or war. I have coached on topics of great and grave public consequence, and on topics of intimate and personal concern. I have coached speakers of the highest public personality and purpose, and speakers whose purpose in life was survival. I am a teacher. I am a coach. I am a guide. I am a motivator. I am a listener. I am a professional. I am very concerned.
The current level of speaking and listening regarding the expression of opinion on matters in the public domain, including opinion about people in the public domain in our beloved country is alarming, very alarming. Those people in the “public domain” whose individual career, personality and income is fed by the attention and commentary, good or bad, pleasant or putrid, are not my concern. Those people whose courage and commitment to the service of other human beings puts them into the “public domain” are my concern. Chief among these currently is our President of The United States of America, Barack Obama.
Now, I am quite aware of, and accepting of, the need for public criticism of public politicians, especially The POTUS. In fact, public criticism of The POTUS is a constructive part of the democratic process. Criticism of public policies, programs, and philosophies is an essential contribution to be made by the loyal opposition, no matter which party is in power. Such criticism is also very valuable when it comes from the “public”. It is also part of the democratic way of life that we cherish.
It serves as a valuable contribution to ” The American Way”. So, why am I very concerned?
I am concerned, disappointed, embarrassed, frightened, and angry about the type and amount of vitriol and sleazy speech we are hearing about The POTUS. No, not because I am a registered Democrat. I am not. No, not because I voted for Obama, and that is none of your business. Commentary and criticism have turned into condemnation and threats. The current spate of racial epithets and curses spewed about our POTUS and supported and justified with quotes from the bible have risen to a frightening level. I am hearing and seeing what can only be referred to as the American Taliban. It is made up of those who use religion as a basis for their remarks. Isn’t that exactly what the Taliban and Al Qaeda do when then try to justify their vile and murderous treatment of other human beings by citing the Koran? There is no difference. The fact that these members of the American Taliban are “citizens” of this country does not give them the right to threaten our POTUS.
As disgusting and un-American I believe this type of speech to be, I am a defender of the right to free speech, which we cherish in our country. However, it seems to have reached a new low, a low that I cannot recall over my 45 years as a speech coach. Of most concern is the fuel that it puts on the fire within those persons who are not able to self contain their dislike of others and who look to responsible leaders for guidance on how to express their dislike. Of special concern is this propensity for using religious justification and citations from holy books to explain and claim the right to do harm both physical and psychological. It has reached a pitch that cannot be ignored. These American Taliban members must not be ignored. They are not just a bunch of crazies. The are not just ” on the lunatic fringe”. We have always had those among us. This new brand of mongers come from and are supported by those who would be seen as “respectable” citizens. The fact is, they are hiding in plain sight. They are as dangerous as the Taliban found in foreign countries. They are the religious zealots on the right and the left.
I am writing these words to urge each and every person who loves America, who loves the freedoms we have, who loves and respects the separation of church and state, who sees the horror and pain that has been inflicted in the name of religion, to speak out. Do not simply ignore these people. Do not write them off as crazies. They are dangerous. We have had too many Timothy McVeigh’s in our lifetime. Be a good citizen. Exercise YOUR right to free speech. Do not be afraid to defend the freedoms so many have fought and died for. Whether you like his politics or not, defend The POTUS. Defend the Presidency. It is representative of the American way of life. Be part of that life. Be the loyal opposition. In this case, oppose the vile and degrading comments that are being made about our President, our Presidency. Help protect, preserve, and propagate the productive speech that has made this great country what it is.
Dr. Dennis Becker