An Uncivil War: How Do We Emerge from This?

A Republican congressman suggests we’re on the verge of another civil war. A Democratic congresswoman urges citizens to harass office holders with whom they disagree.

A presidential press secretary asked to leave a restaurant. A natural-born U.S. citizen berated for allegedly being a Mexican rapist while he was landscaping a yard. White people calling the police on black people who aren’t doing anything threatening. A president whose Twitter account is Exhibit A in a lack of decorum, to put it mildly.

Where are we going with all of this? A cautionary tale is Mexico, where I heard on the radio today that 130 political candidates and campaign workers have been murdered ahead of the upcoming election. That is not a typo. One hundred and thirty people. My fellow Americans, let’s not go there.

What if we could engage in a political discourse that, while earnest and impassioned, was intellectually honest and fair minded? Am I naïve? Perhaps. After all, we’ve all seen enough extreme memes to wish for a mind cleanse. And, I see anti-liberal memes and anti-conservative cartoons.

Where does that leave anyone who is neither archetype? I am pro-First Amendment and pro-Second Amendment (hell, I love the entire Bill of Rights), I am fiscally conservative and socially liberal. In the interest of full disclosure, I find it rather irritating to hear people who have strident political views without having read any real news or attempted to fact-check anything they are repeating. I can’t stand talking points. Oh, and I really loathe clichés, such as the term “thought leader.” I am Christian, but don’t want anyone else to tell me how to interpret the Bible, unless they went to divinity school and I asked them. Or, it is a friend or stranger just relating their understanding, as opposed to a government official citing Scripture to buttress a questionable policy.

I fully admit there are times when I feel fed up, shocked or saddened by news as it unfolds. Mind you, I love news. (I am a former journalist with a double-major degree in history and journalism).

I also confess to earlier today asking Trump supporters to explain their point of view with a Facebook post in which I had side-by-side photos of Trump and Jim Jones of Jonestown infamy. My high school field hockey coach then popped up to politely admonish me for baiting Trump supporters, noting I shouldn’t be surprised they didn’t respond. My coach is one of the toughest, most exacting and most inspiring people I have ever known. When she says something, I need to listen.

Are we truly listening to each other? Many liberals are so furious about serious policy concerns that they are done with being civil, and risk becoming what they despise. Many conservatives have spent a lot of time mocking liberals as effete, etc. This has been going on a very long time and I hope we are reaching the nadir. What have we accomplished with any of this?

Is it possible for us to return to speaking with each other and asking questions, such as what are your fears and aspirations? What do we absolute need as opposed to just want? If we are going to undertake major policy changes, can we have hearings to examine facts (not just hear endless opening statements, please) and weigh cost-benefit analyses (plural).

We have a major challenge before us, collectively, to strengthen the social fabric and to ensure the sanctity of the social compact. Please join me in attempting a civil discourse.