Civil Responsibility

We have met the enemy and they is us.
~ Pogo

You know, it’s a weird time here in the United States. There’s a lot going on. A lot.

In case you haven’t noticed, everyone has an opinion these days. Which is fine. The freedom to share various opinions is the foundation of this country.

However (of course, with any rant worth its salt, there’s always a “however”) … at least from where I’m sitting, the way these opinions are being expressed isn’t always that great. Or respectful. Or constructive.

We are a nation divided at the moment.

Right. Left.

Liberal. Conservative.

Republican. Democrat.

MSNBC. Fox News.




Sexual preference.

Skin color.

The Great Divide runs right down the middle of the Canyon of Ideology. And it’s getting wider and wider with each passing day, with each refreshing of your Twitter feed and your Facebook timeline, with each action or incident that affects people. Which these days is just about anything and everything.

Civilization is a method of living and an attitude of equal respect for all people.
~ Jane Addams

I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.
~ Jackie Robinson

As a reasonably aware person I know that politics, nay, every day events are intense places to be. We’ve had one hell of a summer here in the US. Emotions are running high. Facts and reality are not easy to look at right now. The immediacy of the way we communicate allows voices to be heard, both accurate and inaccurate information to be shared, action to be discussed – in the blink of an eye. All with passion. Emphatic passion. Which is both good and bad.

What’s missing, as I see it, from this scenario?

Respect. And listening. Not just hearing -- but listening. They are not the same thing, you know...

There's a behavioral meme I would run with my Children's Choir Urchins, back when I was directing, at least three times during a rehearsal period – I'd call it a Gimme Five. When Miss Jane said “Gimme Five,” that meant she wanted looking eyes, listening ears, quiet mouths, hands to yourself, feet on the floor.

We could all use a Gimme Five moment, y'all.
 Tout de suite.

Because right now, we’re mired in the muck of disrespect. Closed-mindedness. Single focus. And not hearing anything but what we want to hear – which is most likely a parroting of our own personal views. So many voices. So few pauses. So much cacophony.

Birds of a feather are flocking together. And forming big, squawking, virtual gangs.

It’s not getting us anywhere. Anywhere productive, anyhow.

It’s been about talk. Not so much about action.

It’s been about blame. Not so much about responsibility.

Vitriolic language is bantered about to make points. It’s become sport.

Guess what?

Writing IN ALL CAPS won't provide the solution to the volatile issue that is gun control in our country. Neither will name-calling, deliberate sharing of mis-information and callous flippant responses in the light of horrific events.

Incendiary language doesn’t put food on a table.

Snarky 140 character blips don’t help a family facing a mountain of medical bills and a moat of insurance issues

Divisive comments don’t diffuse the powder keg that is race relations in this country.

Constant criticism and piling on with those of your ideological ilk -- and the incessant sharing of media advocating your position -- won't change minds.

Making a tragedy about yourself when it didn’t affect you or anyone you know directly helps no one and only serves to show you in an unflattering, selfish light. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) has now seeped into the aftermath of horrible events.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words take up residence. Bones heal. Takes a lot more to evict words that hurt or sting.

Lest you think I’m merely pontificating from up here on my soapbox… I’m not innocent. I own my culpability in this one. I can wield my tongue with a sharp snarkiness that points and pokes. I have opinions -- just ask me. Sometimes I keep them in check; sometimes I don’t, usually to regret later.

But as I watch the war of words and worlds escalate on social media between ideological opposites every time there's an incident that leads to a tragedy that raises questions about laws, government and eventually morality, it becomes obvious that this nonsense doesn't help the situation. At all.

It’s damaging. It’s ridiculous.

Most of all -- it’s not productive.

And above all, I’m about things that are productive.

Anonymity has made people bold when it comes to opinion sharing. Hiding behind a screen name and then blasting incendiary rhetoric has become commonplace.

I have had to stop reading the comments on many online articles because they make my blood pressure rise. I shared my opinion on a recent issue on Twitter recently. I was called many, many profane names, had my intelligence questioned and repeatedly told how worthless my opinion and I were.  I was able to retaliate by blocking those individuals but I’m sure that made me feel better more than it made them upset. These were people who did not know me but chose to blast me because I have a different opinion than they do. I know this sort of behavior occurs with the advocates of every single position possible – believe me, it’s not just limited to one side of an issue. Had anyone chosen to respond to my opinion with a respectful argument from an opposite position, I would have gladly engaged in civil discourse. Didn’t happen.

Thoughtful discussion seems to be that rare creature on social media – it’s fleeting and you’d better embrace it when you do see it.

Somewhere, somehow, in a world when we know about news almost before it happens and the court of public opinion is fluid and viral and fickle -- we’ve lost sight of what matters.

The art of compromise.

The impact of collaboration.

Our listening skills.





When did life become one giant pissing match? When did everything become so self-absorbed and personal? How on earth is that constructive or productive? Seriously.

So often I will see someone claim “you disrespected me” when an opposite opinion is offered. It’s not the differing perspective that suffers from lack of respect – it’s the way things are communicated and how people are treated.

The seduction of a soundbite or a re-tweet is palpable. And like it or not, pundits have solidified their place in our society where processing news filtered through ideological cheesecloth is a national pastime. However, said pundits have a tendency to become the news themselves further muddling the real issues. Politicians have embraced this communication to a fault now, making headlines more for their social media activity than their campaign ideas.

When all is said and done, the one thing that cannot be disputed (and should NEVER be disputed) is that everyone, in his or her own way, loves this country. Just as it’s no one’s place to pass judgment on whether another person is religious-enough, it’s no one’s place to judge whether another person is patriotic-enough.

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
~ Thomas Jefferson

Politics and religion (apologies, Mr. Jefferson, sir, for mentioning these two things together) are dancing around each other a lot these days. There are those who take violent action in the name of religion.  There are those who wish to legislate in the name of religion. Which to me is both terrifying and offensive. Zealotry in any form from any side involving any religion is dangerous for it comes with massive tunnel vision and uses a sledgehammer approach to everything it finds offensive.

Not everyone sees the world the same way. You might want to sit down for this one:

Yes, it is possible to be a Christian and a Democrat. Believe it or not.
Yes, it is possible to be gay and a Republican. Believe it or not.
I could go on, but you get the point.

And PS: all those folks who look at things differently than you do, who have a different perspective than yours, who literally look different than you do – they are not bad people. They are not stereotypes. They are individuals. Part of the whole. And they should be respected and treated as such.

I once spent an afternoon driving through the tidewater region of Virginia. An area rich with American history. A place where sweat was dropped to form this country and blood was shed to preserve its unity. While I was overcome with the beauty of the road down which we were driving (and totally geeked out when we crossed the James River) I couldn't help but think about what had transpired in that place. So much physical activity that made a difference. Immigrants in search of their own space for religious freedom. For legislative freedom.

This land really is our land, my fellow Americans – from California to the New York Island. It belongs to all of us, regardless of our ideology. Civilly engaging in discourse and working together to make it our country the best it would do more to honor the intent and action of our founding fathers than any amount of spewn rhetoric could dream of doing.

I’m ready. Are you?

So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate...

...Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us...

...And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

~ President John F. Kennedy

No comments: