However you feel about Nancy Pelosi’s performance as Speaker of the House so far, or however much you agree or disagree with her views, yesterday’s comment (as reported by San Francisco Chronicle Washington staffer Carolyn Lochhead) is worth both consideration and support.
For the first time anyone can remember, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi teared up at a news conference Thursday morning in response to a question about the current state of political discourse.
Visibly struggling to retain her composure, Pelosi recalled a time in San Francisco when emotions ran out of control, referring to the 1978 assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk by former Supervisor Dan White.
“We are a free country, and this balance between freedom and safety is one that we have to carefully balance,” Pelosi began. She then became emotional as she recalled the events, startling the reporters gathered for the weekly news conference.
“I saw this, myself, in the late ’70s in San Francisco,” she said. “This kind of rhetoric was very frightening and it created a climate in which violence took place.”
I was not it San Francisco at the time, but those who were affirm that the intensity of anger, fear and hostility abroad in the community at large offered the ground out of which such an appalling act could grow. Many say the movie Milk accurately caught that mood, and watching the movie made my heart rate accelerate. I don’t think we need any more heart rate acceleration in the U.S. right now.
Regaining control, (Pelosi) expressed a wish that “we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made” and “take responsibility” for what is said.
Those of us who have lived through other periods of polarization in this country — the McCarthy witch hunts, the Vietnam war, the battles for civil rights — retain vivid memories of too many brutalities, assassinations and cruelties. Pelosi is right about the need to retain a balance between freedom and safety. Unless we return to some semblance of civility in the public discourse we stand the chance of losing either, or both.