Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Uncivil Discourse

In this age of politics, it has occurred to me, and the evidence is everywhere, that civil discourse has been replaced by out and out anger and hatred.  It's actually rather shocking, and pits neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, and even family against family, all because we have different opinions about things. A quick glance through one's Facebook feed may even run the gamut of one political extreme to the other, with name calling and insults and jokes and hatred for one side or the other.

I came across an email from about ten years ago, from my mother to two of my aunts, after a particularly bad disagreement that resulted from the fact that my aunts are staunch Republicans, and my father is a life-long Democrat.  My aunts, both older than my dad, were bullying my father for his "un-Christianlike" position as a member of the Democratic Party, and that he was going to Hell for not liking George W. Bush's politics.  My dad is a smart man, and he understands the fact that there needs to be checks and balances in order for democracy to work, and it is also fact that the Democratic Party is more supportive of Federal Government employees, of which my father was one, now retired, and his son (me).  He is also a Christian, as are many Democrats.  However, his sisters, despite having been Democrats themselves until the past 20 years or so (like their parents), have accused my father many times of being un-Christian because he doesn't belong to the Republican Party.  And they argue with him, and badmouth him, and tell him how dumb he is, and it truly upsets him to the point that he bites back, and then they get angry with him and tell him he's going to Hell.  This is true.  It really happened.

Anyway, my mother got frustrated over seeing how much this hurt my father, who loves his sisters and can't understand why they would allow politics to get in the way of the love of family, and the fact is my father is a Christian, and he prays for our nation and for our government leaders daily.  He cares.  My mother, without my father's knowledge, wrote a very common sense response to my aunts letting them know how ridiculous they were being, and how hurtful their messages were.  She tried to sensibly explain that they were being un-Christian with their hateful language.  My mother grew up with a father who believed that everyone had to share his beliefs, so she knew what it was like.  She was not going to put up with their insults and hurtfulness, and she defended my father's views, which she shared, as well.

The email didn't have the desired effect.  And while they are all civil and loving to one another in person, they continue to battle in Internetland.  I think there's a lesson to be learned here, however.  One is that there is no call to insult someone for their opinion.  You don't have to hate someone just because they have a different point of view.  That's what our country is all about, and what makes the United States of America unique.  Everyone is allowed to have an opinion.  Sure, you can disagree, but if you're going to argue, keep it civil.  And by all means, don't brag when you're candidate beats another.  You can be happy for your candidate, but you don't have to badmouth the other side.  And be gracious in defeat.  If your side didn't win, don't spew hate that the world is going to end.  We're all Americans.

Maybe this is all just me being naive.  MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON is one of my favorite movies, after all.  Maybe it is too hard for us all to get along.  Politics are one of those subjects that people will never agree on, like religion, and as I said at the top, we can't seem to have civil discourse anymore.  Everyone has an opinion, and it seems to be on the extremes.  There is no middle ground.  You're either on one side or the other.  It's all black and white.  I think that's sad.

As we move forward following a very hard-fought election season, think about the other side.  You may be happy or sad, but pray for our leaders regardless of your politics.  The men and women who were voted into the positions of leadership need our support, and we need to hope and pray that our country is united.  It's a lesson for the rest of the world to see that democracy can succeed and flourish.  Maybe that's naive.  But that's my hope.

Have a great evening, everyone!<><

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