I strongly support efforts which encourage our elected representatives to seek common ground and bipartisanship – toward consensus, cooperation, and compromise. I have even founded my own movement, The C-Plan for this purpose. Yet, I have come to realize that there is a deeper problem.
“We have met the enemy and he is us,” said Walt Kelly in 1970. How true this remains today.
Scanning major news sources on any given day, even the so-called balanced media provide a clear window into the polarized mindsets which frame our views on political issues. Not surprisingly, these views are even more divisive in the fringe elements. But perhaps most important and equally suggestive of the underlying hatred are the comments posted in response to factual articles, editorials, op-eds, and blogs.
Yes, we the general public may be the root cause of the partisan politics which we all seem to condemn. Is it any wonder that our legislators reflect our own views; after all, we elect them to represent us. But before we demand that they rise above the negativity, we should do the same.
Toxic comments do not help any situation. It is fine to disagree; in fact, that’s the essence of our democracy. We have a venerated system which encourages open public discourse to help us move from conflict to consensus, to knead disparate ideas into working policy. We know it’s not perfect, yet it remains the best system available.
However, to those who espouse nothing but hatred, I say if you can’t debate an issue in a respectful way, you’ll never be part of any meaningful solution. You may succeed to rile up others with a similar mindset, but that’s just preaching to your own choir.
Instead, try to explain your point of view in a way that may help others understand your position. To do this, use rational, calm, respectful language. This will help us all find the middle ground that really does exist.
To those in the media who spew hatred, if you really care about the future of our country, tone it down. To politicians on both fringes, you have every right to your views, no matter how extreme. All I ask is for you to tone down the rhetoric. Be mindful of what you say, how you say it, and how you want your own legacy to evolve. Aspire to be like Nelson Mandela, not Rush Limbaugh.
And to the rest of us, don’t hide behind the mask of anonymity and throw insults right or left. Set an example you wish to see reflected in those who govern us. They will have no choice, but to respond if they hope to continue to represent us.
Civility in public debate can have such a positive effect, while negativity accomplishes nothing. Grassroots efforts, by definition, begin with all of us, in our attitudes, our actions and especially, by the way in which we communicate our ideas. Let us recognize the enemy within ourselves, and move forward towards unity.
A slightly modified version of this article was originally published by IVN.us a non-profit news platform for independent journalists.