The Death Of Civil Debate

// June 28th, 2012 // Personal

I don’t often use this blog to post about personal, social stuff (in fact, I have neglected this thing for over a year and haven’t used it for much of anything).  However, I feel I need to get something out, and 140 characters or a simple Facebook post just isn’t enough space.

Today marked what I believe is a significant date in our nations history.  This afternoon, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld a law that was passed by congress and signed by the President relating to healthcare.  Basically, it limits insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, mandates that all people must have some type of health coverage (although many people are exempt for various reasons), and expands certain parts of medicaid, among other things.

As I scanned through Facebook and Twitter today, I was honestly shocked at some of the reactions.  Not because people agreed or disagreed with the decision…that’s all well and good.  But the sensationalism of their hate-filled rantings was, simply put, striking.  I saw such incredible anger for opposing viewpoints that it made me question why I am connected with these folks.  Shouts like “Freedom is dead” and “This ain’t MY America!” and “We need to get rid of that commie Obama.  He’s not even a real American!”  Really folks?  Take a step back and look how you are acting.  It certainly wasn’t with any tact or respect for anyone or any institution.

The debate around Amendment One here in North Carolina had a similar tone prior to the vote.  Amendment One was a referendum set out to define marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman.  On the conservative right, it was billed as a “vote for marriage the way God intended.”  On the liberal left, it was billed as “equal rights no matter sexual preference.”  Needless to say, the arguments were intense and there were some things said that I am still shaking my head about.  Amendment One passed in North Carolina and there were certainly some disappointed people that day.  I was one of them, but my mood was less about anger and more about hope that the minds of the majority may one day change.  From the majority of my friends and followers, the postings on Facebook and Twitter in the wake of the vote were somber and sad.  Most of the people posting were against the amendment, but I didn’t see them posting that this was “the end of freedom!”

Both situations have made me realize that having a civil conversation with someone about political or social issues is really, really difficult.  I saw it on Facebook today where, to one of my aforementioned comments on the death of freedom, someone replied in favor of the healthcare bill.  That person was berated by the original poster, as well as some of their like-minded friends.  It reminded me of the school yard where the one kid who dared to be different got dirt thrown at him.  It was childish, immature, and downright mean.  The guy expressed his opinion, and for that he was called a communist, socialist, and other names I shall not repeat here.

That attitude has completely and utterly destroyed our societal ability to conversate and debate hot-topic issues.  I blame the likes of Fox News and MSNBC, but the politicians of this country have fueled the fire, too.  The mindless drones of the world eat that crap up.  All of a sudden, you have people (pastors, even) calling for all-out violence against those with dissenting opinions or those that are different.  How do you justify that to your conscience or your religious authority?

I grew up in the Lutheran Church.  Since the day I came into this world, I was taught about God, the Bible, Jesus, creation, and everything in between.  Along with that, I was taught tolerance, love, compassion, and most definitely, manners.  I was instilled with a sense of independence, curiosity, defiance, intuition, and public service (thanks mom!).  Perhaps above all, I was taught a sense of respect.  Respect for others choices, opinions, and voice.  There was very little respect in the messages that I read today.

When did we all get so angry at one another?  Why, when faced with a dissenting opinion, do we result to name calling and demeaning of the other person?  I struggle to figure out how some of my “friends” got this attitude.  Was it always there, and now it is status-quo to spew hate and vitriol at people, so they are just letting it fly?  Do they think they are one of the “cool kids” cause they yell louder and are more obnoxious than anyone else?  I swear, I don’t know when we decided that a debate must be void of class and civility.

While rare, it is still possible to have a decent discussion with disagreeing parties.  I had a great conversation with two friends of mine over dinner and a beer.  At the table was one self-identified democrat (me), one self-identified republican, and one self-identified libertarian.  All of us friends, all of us going into the conversation thinking we were all WORLDS apart on actual issues.  We had a great talk about taxes, gay marriage, defense, healthcare, pizza selections, beer styles.  You know what we found out?  We found out that none of us were that far apart on actual issues.  The republican wasn’t against gay marriage.  The democrat wasn’t against immigration policy.  The libertarian liked good beer!  And over that good beer, we found common ground.  With respect.  With civility.

Perhaps people need to just chill out, have a beer, and remember their manners.  Have some respect for your fellow man, even if especially if  you disagree.  You may find out that you aren’t that different, and you will do so with your dignity still firmly in tact.  How are we supposed to set examples for our children when we still act like spoiled brats?  We have to dial it back some, and remember that golden rule.  And please, stop throwing dirt at that “different” kid.  We don’t like it very much, and we will grow up to write blog posts about it.

Keep it civil folks.

Switch to our mobile site