Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Call for Civility

Me ten feet away from Barack Obama

I’ve given up trying to convince people I am not a Democrat.

The moment a conversation turns political these days, whether it be with acquaintances, friends or family, the pit in my stomach grows. Not because I hate politics. Not even because I feel strongly about a current issue. In fact, most of the time, I agree wholeheartedly with the person about the issue.

I’m just sick of the Hate.

When did it become okay to spew hateful words and comments, questioning the entire moral character of someone with whom you disagree? Why is it acceptable to assume that just because I live in a red state and in a religious culture that values its conservatism, that it’s okay to bash Democrats–especially President Obama– in almost any setting?

For the record, I am a registered Republican. I am pro-life, pro tax-cut, and pro immigration reform. I believe in protecting our First and Second Amendment rights, as well as improving Education. I’m sick of the Welfare/Entitlement mentality of so many Americans, and am not sure what the right action is to solve the unemployment problem. I’m discouraged that Social Security will most likely be gone when I reach retirement age. I think the Bush Administration did the best they could have with what they knew, and am proud of them for keeping another terrorist attack from reaching American soil.

In the liberal land of my native Oregon, most people reading the previous paragraph about my beliefs would agree that I am pretty conservative. But in my social circles, I’m known as the Liberal One. Not really because my stand on any of the issues differs, but because I don’t hate President Obama. I don’t think he is the Spawn of Satan. I don’t believe he has some hidden agenda to socialize the Union. I don’t think he forged his birth certificate, and I believe him when he says he’s a Christian. In fact, although I don’t agree with many of his policies, I admire his attempts at reaching across the aisle to get things done.

It’s usually at this point in a conversation that the person I’m talking with comes to a realization about me. They give me a knowing look that says they’ve figured me out. Often with condescension, they address me as if I’m a naive person who’s been duped by the left-wing media. Either I’m lacking in morals or just not that bright. When I tell them I attended presidential rallies for Obama and Clinton, they are stunned and appalled. (I would have attended McCain, Romney, and heck–even Huckabee!–but they didn’t make it to my neck of the woods)

Here’s the thing: I was raised by an attorney father who taught me to think critically. I was expected to examine all sides of an issue before I made a decision. Even in small things like whether I could go with certain friends to see a certain movie, I was instructed to “present my case” to my parents, and back it up with reason and logic. Perhaps it’s because of this background that I cringe when I hear people blaming Obama for everything from the Swine Flu to bad cell phone reception to long lines in airports (Not kidding. I've heard all these blamed on him). Just because it gets forwarded in an email, or because it was on the news (FOX or CNN), doesn’t mean it’s true.

I honestly thought Republicans would be better. After 8 years of nonsensical Bush-bashing I thought we might be more compassionate toward the new President. But just the opposite has occurred.

We need to remember that it is okay to disagree with someone. Diversity and differences are what make America such an interesting place to live. I wish we could see that there is more than one way of looking at a problem, and that most of the time, there is no black or white answer. Political problems are complicated at best, laced with dangerous consequences at worst. There is no instruction manual, and oftentimes no roadmap from History to follow. Sure there are dishonest people, but why can’t we also concede that most people are just trying to do the best they can with the knowledge and the background they have? In any case, it seems like we should be able to show respect to people who have differing opinions than our own.

Stand up for what you believe? Of course! Just don't weaken your own argument by resorting to name-calling and personal attacks. It lacks class and shows how uneducated you seem to be.

This polarization of America is not making us stronger. It is unity and respect that make us strong. We are becoming weak. I fear that unless we are able to converse civilly, our democracy and way of life are in grave danger.
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