Eugene Paslov: Why thoughtful political discourse is important

I'm frequently asked why I'm willing to put up with the ultra right-wing partisans who appear to be in attack mode most of the time. My answer is the same now as it has been in the past: I believe strongly in political discourse.

I value those who have different views of the political world, those who have thoughtful opinions that are different from mine but are clearly articulated and based on factual information. But much of what I read and hear locally is based on pre-rehearsed scripts - anti-government, anti-union, anti-intellectual, anti-public education, anti-taxes; and at the very top of the list, anti-President Obama. Most of the anti-Obama talk has been around since he took office and much of it is sarcastic and nasty. These talking points are inflammatory and invariably inaccurate. They add little to rational political discourse.

There are many in our community who are knowledgeable about government, unions, education, services for the elderly, intellectual and artistic endeavors, taxes and health care reform. There is some reluctance on their part, however, to speak up because they work in the public sector, or they worry they might offend someone of political importance. We've descended into a "slash and burn" culture. But we cannot allow know-nothing letter writers or thoughtless luncheon guests to monopolize public conversation.

I am so proud of Janice Ayres. She is an ardent supporter of the rights of seniors and is unafraid to express her views. She recently evoked the ire of our Congressional District 2 congressman.

He attacked her. He was trying to make the case that he really supports seniors. I'm sure he loves his mother, but he appears not to have the same level of compassion for all elderly. Ms. Ayres does. Our newly elected, deeply partisan, congressman signed the no-new-tax pledge, and he has indicated his support for the Paul Ryan budget plan which proposes privatizing social security and gutting Medicare as we know it. Go get him, Janice.

I also was pleased that former Sen. Richard Bryan spoke out against those who are trying to resurrect funding for Yucca Mountain. Sen. Bryan is one of our most dedicated public servants and is well-informed about the policy, political actions and scientific problems with nuclear waste. Sen. Bryan has put a muzzle on the "barking dogs," hopefully, to quiet those who would put money above Nevadans' safety.

We need to hear from those who are being impacted by the right-wing ideologues. These folks appear to undermine all that has made our country great - a strong, vibrant middle class, educational opportunities for all, and an inspirational quality of life. Speaking out will help restore confidence in our government and its positive policymakers. Speak up.

• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.


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