Jonathan Daniels, the firebrand editor and publisher of the Raleigh News and Observer, so offended many readers with his views that the newspaper was widely known as "The Nuisance and Disturber." His wife, Lucy, used to say that periodically, she would "put on my bonnet and walk around downtown just to see who wasn't speaking to me."
Those were the days of civil discourse, before "concealed carry" laws and open sale of machine guns to yahoos.
As David Sirota put it the other day, "We are becoming a nation of haters."
The haters, he said, "have succeeded in turning political discourse into a war of attrition against their personal demons -a war won by those who can go nuclear the fastest. That's clearly been the story of the summer on health care - and it continues to be the story on most major issues. I mean, conservatives are quite literally calling the president's plan to promote the value of education to the nation's schoolchildren a secret socialist plot. All of it has convinced me we are living through one of the darkest periods in the last 50 years - one in which intense hatred has now become an accepted - even celebrated - part of our democracy."
The boorish goons who disrupted recent town hall meetings with Congressmen won admiring attention in the mainstream press. During this same period the media ignored several genuine news events that took place around the country: free public health clinics set up in some of the poorest areas of the U.S., both rural and urban. They were inundated beyond the capacity of the doctors and nurses who volunteered to conduct them. Thousands of people camped out in line for several nights to get a tooth fixed, a baby's cough treated, or medicine for grandma's arthritis. The clinics had to stay open round the clock and still couldn't give care to everyone who needed it.
Sirota and other real journalists are constantly subjected to really vile public insults by the parrots of Limbaugh, Beck, Dobbs, O'Reilly and their ilk -- overpaid performers, like dancing bears and trained seals, who dominate what broadcasters call "news." This is what passes for public discourse today.
Oh, for the good old days when a lady could put on her best bonnet and safely walk around town to find out who wasn't speaking to her.