There is room under the big tent that we call democracy for all sides of the issue. Every challenge to any issue needs to have an airing.
But there is no room for hate and anger.
Over the weekend, Mark Williams leader of the Tea Party Express, posted a fictional letter from what he called “Colored People” during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. The letter, which he said was satirical, stated that those that were going to be freed by Lincoln didn’t want to be. Why would they not want to be? Read for yourself:
"We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!"
The national Tea Party organization, ask the Tea Party Express to order Williams to retract the blog post. When the group didn’t and Williams refused to, the national organization expelled the Tea Party Express. This action by the national Tea Party Organization was the right thing to do. Since they did it immediately, it indicates that the party had the good sense that it was clearly wrong instead of waiting to see how all sides came out on the issue. (As a side bar on the issue, Mark Williams later did take down the post. If he was so certain of his ideas and so comfortable with the way he expressed them, why did he eventually pull down the post?)
The Tea Party Express is the organization that traveled around the country visiting town hall meetings of politicians that they thought were supporting Health Care Reform. The group’s members, supported by the organization, disrupted plenty of what would have been useful and healthy debates about the issue. Instead, the issues could not be thoroughly discussed because of the hateful attitude from many members of the Tea Party Express.
Open and healthy debate on all issues is important to a democracy. Yes, even the ideas that the Tea Party Express has should be heard. But, when hate and anger is used by the proponents of an idea, they became blind to legitimate responses to their ideas. They then drive their followers well beyond a respectful and meaningful dialogue to one that dominates the discussion and borders on totalitarianism.