The Urgent Need for Civil Discourse.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on

A few days ago, Mr Gosar, a Republican representative from Arizona, tweeted an anime video of himself ‘attacking a character with the face of Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and swinging a sword at a character with President Biden’s face,’ as reported by the WSJ.

This last Wednesday, the democratic majority in congress voted to censure Mr Gosar and remove him from his two committee assignments.

In his defense, Mr Gosar stated that the video ‘was not intended to depict any harm or violence against anyone portrayed in the anime. The video is truly a symbolic portrayal of a fight over immigration policy.’

The WSJ goes on to say that the congressman deserved ridicule more than censure, since the   video was ‘a stupid cartoon, not an actual incitement to violence,’ and that censure ‘should be reserved for serious offenses.’

This is minimizing the transgression and shows to what extent the quality of the political dialogue in our nation has deteriorated. The Journal, along with the entirety of our national media, have played a role in the lowering of standards.

Just where do we think this is going to end if we don’t halt this civic decline? Punching each other out? Is that where we want to go? Does any one side really believe they can out shout the other?

The better integrated people on either side, will eventually sense the limits of aggressive discourse, but the less integrated will not, and it is these people who will end up inflicting physical harm on others. It would be easy then to blame them for not knowing their limits but that won’t do. It should not absolve us from our role in egging them on.

The unrestrained media bashing of each other has consequences. Words and pictures harm. They injure, and those injuries leave scars.

There are many people in our nation who lack the capacity to process psychological discomfort or pain and, feeling threatened, will believe they must lash out at perceived injustices. These same people look to others, who are better integrated, to find guidance. And that is a responsibility that the educated must not shirk.

It is a fundamental responsibility in a free society. And more so in a free society that as of now, has not dealt fairly with the problems of inequality, racism and immigration.

To remain free requires a continued effort to educate, to develop our intellects and emotional temperance, and so better judge the impact of our words and actions.

At a time when our system is being challenged by China, it is of the greatest importance that we adhere to high standards in how we treat others. Or else we will waste precious time needed to renew ourselves and grow stronger as a nation.

This should be a land where everyone has a chance to be the best they can be. We are not there yet. And if we want to lead the world that is where we must go. Or else we will end up being led by others.

Mr Gosar needs to apologize to both Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and to Mr Biden. He needs to do so publicly. He does not need to agree on anything with either person and he could state so. But the issuing of an apology for his video will be a mark of maturity, of decency, and of taking responsibility for the potential harm that words and graphics may lead to.

Oscar Valdes. Also available in, apple podcasts and buzzsprout.

Dear Ted Yoho

Some incidents have a way of sinking us or enhancing us. How we handle them can be career changing.

I am referring to the degrading words you spoke recently to your fellow congressperson, Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, D (NY).

Till now, you have been what the British call a back bencher in congress. I had never heard of you.

I am sure you would like to be more prominent than you are now and, perhaps because of it, you spoke as you did to the congresswoman.

Let me explain.

It cannot be easy, to sit in the House, year after year, and not have made much of an impression. Then you see someone like Ocasio Cortez, a brown woman from New York, daughter of immigrants from Puerto Rico, shoot into the consciousness of the nation, flying high up into the American political firmament, and in her very first term become a speaker in great demand, sharing a stage with former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during the primaries.

The young lady has got it.

She’s tapped into something that energizes others. She’s got the markings of a leader with staying power.

You sit there, watching all of it, looking at her meteoric rise, and you resent it.

Dear Mr Yoho, that is okay. That makes you human.

Like you, there are thousands if not millions of Americans, from the Right and the Left, who would like to be in Ocasio Cortez’s shoes.

It is okay.


It is okay.

That journey is her journey. You have your own, like I have mine.

Let her have hers. No need to go insulting her. No need to call her the words you did.

But you did.

So let me tell you what I think you have to do, because it would be good for you and, believe it or not, would be good too for your political career. If fact, it could be the start of it.

Okay, here it is.

You have to apologize to her. In person. In private.

That’s right.

You have to summon all your courage, which I know you have, and ask for a private audience with her and simply apologize.

‘Alexandra… I am sorry for what I did. What I said was degrading to you and to me as well. I am better than that. I was envious of you, envious of your talents and your drive and ambition, all of which I wish I had. Please, accept my deepest apology, on behalf of myself and my constituents.’

Ted, you do that and I assure you, your star will rise. Of course, you have to mean every word.

If you do, then you will have to go back to your constituents and explain. Explain the source of your resentment, and then ask your supporters to examine themselves also, look into their hearts and see if they have felt or feel as you did.

To the extent that what you said to Ocasio Cortez represented a belief shared by your constituency, then to that extent you have to work with them so they can examine those beliefs. Examine to transform.

Ted, we are at a very important juncture in our nation’s history and you can play an important part in the process and no longer be a back bencher. We have to come together. No one side owns the truth. We have to talk. A nation divided will not be able to muster the energy to confront the challenges other nations are presenting to us. And all of it starts at the local level. All of it starts with the constituency each member of Congress represents.

Ted, I have no doubt, that by your apologizing in person to Ocasio Cortez, your example will inspire other lawmakers and politicians to join in a much needed dialogue. So rise to the occasion, Mr Yoho, rise!

Rise and join those in the vanguard of change the nation is aching for.

Best wishes.

Oscar Valdes


Not long ago, upon hearing of Amy Klobuchar’s announcement that she was taking herself out of the running for the democratic vice presidential spot, I wrote to her asking to reconsider. She had chosen to drop out because 20 years before, while a DA in Minnesota, she had failed to press charges on police officers suspected of abusive behavior toward African Americans. My point to her was that she had evolved, and the pugnacity and fairness she had displayed in the primaries marked her as a very worthwhile choice for vice presidential nominee. I remarked that there is no purity. There is, however, the courage to confront our prejudices and act on them. That’s what elevates us.

The blog is entitled Dear Amy and is available on my website.