“Civility is the sum of the many sacrifices we are called to make for the sake of living together.” Stephen L. Carter
Did you know this coming Tuesday is election day?
OK, it’s a tiny election day when almost no one is running for anything, but let’s think of it as good practice for the next BIG election.
I don’t remember a time in my life when our country has been so polarized and divided and when civility has become such a severe casualty on the battlefield of our democracy, not even during the Vietnam/Nixon era. The difference? In those days social media wasn’t even a distant star twinkling over the Silicon Valley. We got our news from reputable sources we trusted, and people like Woodward and Bernstein could do their jobs without being barraged with shouts and tweets of “Fake News.”
These days I continually ask myself, how did we get here, and most importantly, how can we begin to bring civil conversation back into the mainstream of American life.
I was inspired when I read these insights last week in the New York Times column by David Brooks. I encourage you to read the entire piece — on “How To Engage A Fanatic.”
Brooks’s suggestion is that “You engage fanaticism with love…” That might sound a bit like corny Beatles’ lyrics, but his point? If we confront the anger of others with our anger we’re on a slippery slope to becoming a different brand of fanatic. We are guaranteed to lose our soul in that vicious battle.
Instead, writes Brooks, we should treat the person we disagree with as a precious life who has a rationale — no matter how senseless it may seem to us — that grows out of his or her experiences. We should show our respect by listening to what they believe and why they believe it, and then we should ask that person to listen to us in the same spirit.
Treating those we oppose with love, respect, and kindness, may increase our dental bills because of the intense gnashing of teeth, but I agree that as hard as it is, this is a way of life that is good for our spirits, good for our lives, and good for the country we love.
We each have three years before the next BIG election to practice it. It’s never too soon to start.