Insulting rhetoric is unproductive

The League of Women Voters’ Stephanie Huss did a good job keeping order at the town-hall meeting the group held Saturday at Durango Public Library. That is in the best tradition of the league, but it should not have been necessary.

Not only is there no reason to be disorderly in a public meeting, it is generally unproductive. Heckling or shouting at a speaker almost always makes those disruptive things look bad and reflects on their cause as well. And that is all the more true if some of the hecklers represent factions that are truly disagreeable.

The event, which the league calls its “Legislative Lowdown,” featured our two state legislators – Republican state Sen. Ellen Roberts and Democratic state Rep. Michael McLachlan, both of Durango – in what was supposed to be a question-and-answer session about various issues before the state Legislature. However, the standing-room-only crowd was mostly there to talk about four gun-control bills passed by the House the previous Monday.

The attendees missed a broader discussion, much of which would have been about measures with greater effect on people’s lives than the gun laws. But given McLachlan’s support for those bills, the town hall attracted gun-rights advocates from across the state, people who are neither Roberts’ nor McLachlan’s constituents. And some of them clearly had no interest in conversation or dialogue.

A group called Colorado Accountability exemplified the nastiness in some quarters. It encouraged gun-rights supporters to attend the meeting, but its website also urged viewers to “sign up to help us recall the traitor Mike McLachlan.”

Traitor? McLachlan does not deserve that. Few do. But it is typical of too much of today’s politics.

Calling someone with a different opinion a traitor is unacceptable. That anyone would do so reflects, not gun owners or gun-rights supporters, but a perversion of democracy seen in too many issues. It is a narrow-minded thinking that elevates one interpretation of one point of view about one issue to over-arching importance. It is selfish and self-absorbed.

The bills in question would affect minor changes to the law most gun owners would never notice. They are not an assault on the Second Amendment.

Still, one can argue against them for a number of reasons. And that argument can be made civilly, reasonably and respectfully. Roberts does just that.

There is no need, no reason for critics to be insulting – especially with a word any veteran is sure to find profoundly offensive. Doing so only cheapens their own point.