We live, it is said, in an era of angry political polarization. Yet if you watch congressional floor debates on C-SPAN, you can't help but be struck by the elaborate rituals of politeness: "I yield to the gentlelady from Michigan," "Would the chair entertain a motion?", "My good friend from Texas seems to have his head up his ass." OK, the latter wouldn't happen -- because if it did, the offending party would have his words "taken down," which is a stern rebuke in which the remarks are stricken from the record.
In other places, they aren't so restrained. In Taiwan, for example, legislators routinely engage in fistfights, at least if our American news broadcasts are to be believed (they can't resist a good Taiwanese legislature fistfight). Great Britain has the spirited tradition of "question time," in which the prime minister comes to the House of Commons to engage in a fast-moving back-and-forth with the opposition, most of whom are of the opinion, which they are happy to share, that the honorable resident of 10 Downing can't tell his arse from his elbow.
But this, via The Awl, is something you don't see too often. The Ukrainian Parliament, debating whether to continue allowing Russia use of its Black Sea port, devolved into an out-and-out melee, complete with punches thrown, eggs and tomatoes tossed, and smoke bombs detonated. Yes, smoke bombs. And through it all, the speaker kept talking, protected by umbrellas that his allies had the foresight to bring with them to the day's session:
For some reason, my favorite part is the brief shot of that circa-1981 Atari display they use, presumably for counting votes. Who says the democratic process is boring?
-- Paul Waldman
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