Growing up, I remember hearing that religion and politics, two of my favorite subjects, were not discussed in public. However, religion and politics are often the base of an individual’s views and ethics, thoughts and behaviors. By obviating these two categories, we often engage in very superficial conversations. The fact is, we can no longer even speak about the weather or ask about one’s health without broaching politics. Neither can one ask after someone’s pregnancy, spouse or family without potentially stepping on religious sanctions.
When the highest position in the land, the Presidency, is denigrated by those who hold the highest positions of justice in the land, the Supreme Court, then the ‘person on the street’ is merely reflecting the attitude of their leaders. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, mimicry has become the lowest form of constructive intellectual processing. It is far easier to repeat a meme than to research the context of a phrase. It is more empowering to listen only to sources that come from our predetermined vantage point than to tune in to a source that challenges our beliefs.
In times of crises, as a nation, we generally come together to support each other. Americans are a generous, caring and supportive people. I saw this as I drove from Colorado to Oregon and back the week following 9/11/01. We have all seen this in the outpouring of assistance during the days following Haiti, Hurricane Sandy, Fukishima, the shootings in Aurora and Sandy Hook and countless other catastrophes. The problem that exists is that those feelings, that desire to assist, is temporary. We have a longer memory for resentment and hatred than we do for compassion and love. Why is it that a single instance of conflict can deplete a lifetime of love but a single instance of connecting will not overcome a lifetime of hate?
I was astounded by the number of people who have told me they de-friended someone during the last election season, and not just on facebook. I am astonished that people of good will cannot discuss religion and politics without devolving to name calling. I am bemused by those who spout rhetoric that they perceive as clever when it is merely degrading for them as well for those who hear it. It is, for me, no different from the comedian who tosses out curses in lieu of being able to present a comedic dialogue.
I am not advocating repressing emotions. In fact, I consider the zero tolerance rules to be an abdication of good judgment. (Common sense should tell us that two five year olds kissing on a playground should not be suspended from school.) Repression merely leads to an eventual emotional explosion. Concern for our fellow human beings, awareness of someone else’s pain, frustration and isolation, involvement in dialogue with family, friends, community and nation, must go hand in hand with any regulations, be they around guns or mental health.
However, conversation, civil discourse, etiquette and concern for one another, are not things that can be legislated. Rather, these are things that are internalized by observing them and by living within a culture that promotes them. I am not offended by someone opening a door for me. I appreciate someone saying ‘bless you’ when I sneeze. I can afford the ten seconds it takes to wave the other car through an intersection. I do not need to see every ‘blood on the snow’ story that occurs just so a 24/7 news station can fill in their allotted time. I am delighted to hear of any charitable project being undertaken by a child, a teen, a local adult or a celebrity. I look forward to discussing different opinions with my friends, knowing that they will still be friends at the end of the discussion – even when the differences remain.
Maybe we need to simply go back to basics. Please share your thoughts with me. Thank you for taking the time to consider my opinion.