Where has our civility gone?
I can remember when I was a young boy my father calling his father and chiding him on the morning following the 1948 presidential election. My grandfather had voted for Dewey and my father for Truman. It was a close race and Truman was unexpectedly elected. The spirit of their conversation that morning was not rancorous, but an exchange filled with lighthearted ribbing.
Though now retired, I was in an occupation in which there was a wide variety of divergent views on a number of issues. Nonetheless, for the most part, we were civil, respected each other, and most often were able to find topics we could agree on and move forward.
Some years ago I was in Washington D.C. and set up an appointment with my congressman, a high ranking member of the House of Representatives. Though he had definite convictions and represented the views of his constituents, there was, for the good of the country, a spirit of cooperation in both houses of Congress.
I guess for a long while, no matter what was going on around me, I was naive and continued to believe folks who thought differently could have civil conversations regarding their differing points of view. However, it was in the summer prior to the last presidential election that I found out how misguided I had been. I attempted to have a conversation with one of my three brothers-in-law about the upcoming presidential election. I knew he and I were going to vote for different candidates, but I thought we could express our points of view and though not change our minds, maybe gain insight into a different perspective. No way! It was made clear to me that there would be no conversation concerning that topic and that was the end of it.
Things have definitely changed. No doubt for some time now. There seems to be little desire in either the House or the Senate to cooperate. At least publically, both parties appear to be entrenched, unwilling to work together. It seems that for one to win the other has to fail. Where have civility and compromise gone?
Though both the recent shootings at the synagogue in Pittsburgh and the "bombs" aimed at various Democratic politicians appear to be the work of loners, they nonetheless reflect a permissiveness in this country that hate, anger and violence in the public sector will be tolerated, as if the ends justify the means.
Differences of opinion are of tantamount importance in a Democratic society. They are healthy. The majority should prevail. What isn't healthy is when means other than civil are tolerated and even, though not openly, are by silence encouraged and condoned.