"I can say nigga, but you can't."
"The 9/11 victims were Nazis."
"I am no longer a Christian."
"Bush is a fascist."
"We cheered during 9/11."
Before I go any further, let me preface this post by informing you that none of these statements are mine; nor do they reflect sentiments I hold.
Well, sort of.
When you hear rhetoric like this presented with such extremity, it's very easy to get your message lost in the translation. It's for this reason -- I would argue -- that there has been such a major disconnect between liberals and conservatives in what would otherwise be a civilized and lucid discussion.
From my analysis of debates between pundits, activists, and media, I've come to the conclusion that the possibility of profound and intelligible exchanges between liberals and conservatives are often twarted when extreme rhetoric is tossed into the mix. When I first heard that rapper and activist KRS-One went on Hannity and Colmes to justify his comments regarding 9/11 for example, I just knew what to expect. He would be on the show defending his statements, Sean Hannity would fccus on what he said WORD FOR WORD, rip into him, give him a second to explain himself, and then -- of course --KRS-One would fail to adequately do so. Not suprisingly, at the end KRS-One would be labeled as another liberal nutcase who thought that 9/11 was a good thing (since his comments were taken literally, 911 must've really been a joke).
Then, I saw the clip:
When I heard KRS-One's comments, I immediately knew what he meant. I immediately picked up on the fact that he wasn't "celebrating" Jane Doe (the $9/hr secretary working at Merrill Lynch to take care of her family) being killed during the horrendous attacks of September 11th. I get the idea that the "celebration" was indeed over the assault on corporate America that ensued during the attacks (let's face it, America's economic system is greedy and exploitative and did take a major blow during 9/11). But that's not what Hannity heard. All he heard was "we celebrated during 9/11". From there, the usual antics of talking over each other and falsely contextualizing took place.
KRS-One's comments, Ward Churchill's anti 9/11 sentiments, the Daily Kos (and other liberal outlets), and defendants for the n-word all fall into the same category. They all share legitimate thoughts and ideas that quickly get lost and dismissed by poor delivery. I'm sorry, but using a series of extreme and sometimes hyperbolic statements will not make your message acceptable to conservatives. Conservatives (as far as I can tell by those I've seen in action) tend to process information concretely. This certainly isn't a character flaw. It's just how they are. So when liberals try to convey a point using abstract and figurative language, they'll never get conservatives to see things their way. Hence the communication breakdown. This is why there will always be a great divide.
This discussion conveniently fits into a conversation I had with the Hippie Conservative regarding Bill O'Reilly's comments about Sylvia's restaurant. After hearing another version of this story, it appears that his comments were taken out of context. So, allow this to serve as my public apology for bashing Bill-O (if your only sources are Media Matters and Crooks & Liars, you might wanna double check the information before forming an opinion). But this also goes to show that if people don't say what they actually mean it makes it all the easier to twist and manipulate comments to satisfy an agenda against them. If you leave it up to other folks to make assumptions on what you mean, effective communication will never take place; least of all not with political and social relations.