The Loss of Civility in Political Discourse…a Self Examination of Sorts

Most everyone who has talked with me at any length knows I am not a political activist.  I have my opinions on various political issues — but I’m not so opinionated that I need to wear it on my sleeve.  I also don’t care much about debate either.  I find it to be a useless activity for me.  I can read/listen to both sides of an argument, draw my own conclusions, form my own opinion — and I’m fine once I finish that process.  I have no need or desire to recruit anyone to my cause or my opinion.  I tend to believe that most human beings can make up their own minds.

Over the recently completed election cycle – I saw friends of mine draw proverbial lines in the sand over the “rightness” of their chosen candidate – or the “wrongness” of the other candidate(s).  I saw people shut long-time friends out of their lives.  Even I was forced to remove two friends from my Facebook page over the manner in which they espoused their point of view.  See, my point isn’t the candidate that anyone decided to support or even vilify – that’s nothing that’s ever entered into my mind.  Its the manner in which folks decided to exercise those rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Calling someone an “idiot” or a “moron” is one thing.  I’m guilty of that.  A driver cuts me off on the interstate (a regular occurrence here on the Dallas streets), I’m apt to a momentary flash of anger and emotion.  “You idiot” is a common growl heard from me during such events.  Sometimes I’m a bit more verbose.  However, when such descriptives (and sometimes much worse) are hurled at people that one refers to as a “friend” — that’s a little different.  I can understand a singular utterance…that’s just emotions.  But when its used consistently and constantly…I have to call into question the usage of the term “friend”.

Yes, I’m just as guilty as anyone else in the instance of flashing emotionally driven statements at folks who are friends.  But I try not to do that all the time – and for the most I succeed.  For the most part.  Removing two individuals from a status of “friend” on Facebook isn’t that big of a deal.  But it did set me to thinking about the way people interact with others.  Particularly during these inane political cycles.  Four years ago – I remember all the statements aimed by people I knew at then Senator Obama.

If we elect him, he’ll be the Coon-in-Chief.

It will be *dark* days in America if we elect him.

There were several other racially oriented japes that I overheard numerous times.  At that time, I wondered about the aspects of racial prejudice within the United States.  Four years later, I still wonder – but I see it tinged with another social aspect that worries me.  The lack of common civility towards one another.  This morning, I was listening to a piece on NPR about Evan Bayh of Indiana – who recalled that when his father was an elected official – the family would have dinner parties, where Republicans (his father was a Democrat) were consistently invited – and greeted as friends.  Look at Washington politics today – with insults hurled openly at one another from across the aisle.  Small wonder that our politicians can’t get anything done legislatively. But that microcosm actually mimics the larger macrocosm of the American landscape.

After the election had completed, several Romney/Ryan signs were defaced in the neighborhood with spray paint or turn apart and left as litter in the front yards.  Prior to the election, several Obama/Biden sings were defaced in a similar manner.  At one time, I feared that my Forester – with the Gary Johnson bumper sticker prominently displayed on the back window – would meet a similar fate for my own open support of a candidate.  A coffee shop that I frequent has had numerous political discussions held at its tables.  I haven’t been back in several weeks…because the discussions turned into shouting matches between supporters at various tables.

This isn’t about being fervent in one’s support for their candidate.  Its a lack of respect for letting other people draw their own conclusions.  I saw a lot of this in Facebook “conversations” as well:

How could anyone vote for that Commander in Thief?
Romney is part of a cult.  How could you vote for a follower of Satan?
His politics will take away our rights!  You communist!

I can understand someone would be upset that someone may choose to support a different candidate.  Especially when you feel your candidate is by far the better choice.  What I don’t understand, is how anyone would let politics pollute their friendship with someone else.  How does political rhetoric allow you to openly insult someone you call a friend?  Perhaps I just don’t get it.  Or perhaps its an indicator of an erosion of common civility within our society?

Whatever the case may be…I’m unhappy to see it.  I’m even more unhappy when I realize that I actually participated in some of this type of stuff.  I’m not sure why it seems that politics is always the driver behind stuff like this – not just for me – but for nearly everyone I’ve seen around me.  Tim Leary once noted that the hippies needed to “tune in, turn on, and drop out”  Leary explained it thus in his autobiography:

“Turn on” meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end. “Tune in” meant interact harmoniously with the world around you – externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives. “Drop out” suggested an active, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. “Drop Out” meant self-reliance, a discovery of one’s singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean “Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity”.

Perhaps its time for me – as a singular individual – to follow this particular explanation where politics is concerned….

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One thought on “The Loss of Civility in Political Discourse…a Self Examination of Sorts

  1. Tarna Blackelm (tarnablackelm@yahoo.com)

    hmm Tommy, I hate to inform you.. you never get away from "poltics". it is part of basic human interactions. if 3 or more people are together to the national election. there will be "poltics" at some level. you have see it on the coven/grove/group level all all the way up. But to be honest, this election has divided people more than all the others I have seen or remembered. It is also the most mud throwing and rude one I ever remember seeing in all my 60 years here. But I will share with you a story I was told in my earily druid training.The question asked of the teacher was – what responsiblity do we have in stopping someone doing something harmful – to themselves or others. This was the example the teacher used Suppose you see a friend running to where you know there is a cliff drop of 250 ft. sure stop them ask them if they know there is a 250 ft drop and they would most likely die because of it. They say sure I know it there, I want to kill myself. So what do you do then? Tie them up and sit on them? sure you can do that but sooner or later you will have to do something else for a few mintues and they will get loose and run off the cliff Call the police or whomever to come get them? ya you can do that Sure they will get locked up….. but if they really want to kill themselves, they gonna run off that cliff or find another way. all you can do is delay them to give them time to think it over, try to convice them there is a better way or hope for something better.. but in the end it is thier choice and Karma, you did all you could.To me the election is over, the people made thier choice – for good or ill. We will have to see if we as a nation ran off that cliff or hopefully there is a safety net 10 ft under the rim or a river that we as a nation can fall into ( LOTR reference). My Crystal Ball doesn't give me state of the nation reports, I need the internet to reseach it.As for instults, harsh words.. the after effects of this election are shameful to me. Take the example of the civil war to heart, nation/familys/friends at odds to the point of killing each other in a war. I had ancestors on both sides of that one. But friendship should go beyond poltics or difference of opinon – and I will give this saying from a dear friend who I have had several CM vs Pagan ways "debates" – he would always remind me – "Make you words sweet because some day you might have to eat them".Just my experinces and 2 cents worth.. take em or leave em..

    Reply

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