Where Has the Civility Gone?

I have had countless conversations with people over the last few years about this very subject. I have witnessed and experienced in my own life, the severing of ties of friendship over ideology, especially since the opening of Pandora’s box called Trumpism. While Donald Trump has been the catalyst for fully opening the doors and windows to this energy, he is not the creator of it, he is simply the byproduct of energies that have been festering for decades and generations.

We are a spoiled lot in this country of the United States. On the whole, most home-grown Americans have little idea how the rest of the world lives, save a few movies and television programs. Many of us consider it a major calamity if our washing machine breaks down while many in this world barely have the opportunity to find any source of water to drink, much less wash what clothes they have.

We are embroiled in a battle of cancel culture versus grievance culture, with both sides screaming to be heard above the other. We are quickly losing the civility of conversation and understanding which have been the underpinnings of the origins of this experiment called the United States of America.

I have been reading a marvelous book by the historian Clay s. Jenkinson, titled Repairing Jefferson’s America. The cancel culture has been calling for the removal of not only statues of the Confederacy, but statues of Jefferson, including the Jefferson Memorial, and even Mount Rushmore. Like most people, I  abhor racism and all things alluding to the denigration of any race of human beings. But I do not believe that erasing our past is how we make for a better future.

In the book Repairing Jefferson’s America, Mr. Jenkinson goes on to explain that if we want to understand America, we must try to understand Jefferson. With all his inconsistencies and his paradoxes, he mirrors the inconsistencies and the paradoxes of the American experiment. Is it not better as he suggests, to engage in a continuous national conversation about Jefferson, about the Founding Fathers, many by the way who were slaveholders, and those very inconsistencies, than to turn away in disgust?

Mr. Jenkinson also writes; “We don’t fix America by erasing things we now find intolerable. We must attempt to be fair, reasoned, deliberate, and contextual in exploring our troubled history. Like it or not we are the heirs of generations of imperfect men and women.”

Rather than have a serious, civil, national conversation, we are embroiled in multiple sides seeking the advantage over each other. Back in 2020 when covid started to impact our lives, I said this was the moment that would become a mirror to us all, waiting to see which part of us was going to show up. I truly was not expecting the level of anger, divisiveness, and sheer disdain for each other that came to the surface. The all too present racism that many thought had disappeared simply came back with a vengeance, in part fueled by the rhetoric of a President more interested in his own interests than in the welfare of the country. Some of you will disagree with that statement- you are entitled to your opinion as well. This is not a commentary on Trump, it is a commentary on who we truly are as human beings, as Americans.

Mr. Jenkinson also writes; “The behavior of the most extreme partisans of our culture is pushing us in the direction of the Roman Republic in its final days. Beyond this, the partisan paralysis of the U.S. Congress has left us without a national healthcare policy, national emergency policy, national energy policy, national immigration policy, or national education policy. Our infrastructure is deteriorating. Great nations find ways to address their fundamental problems.”

While we attack each other over masks and vaccines, people are dying not only of covid but of neglect and of institutional racism. The media is certainly complicit in fostering this dissent, after all, it’s good for ratings and for their coffers. But in the end, WE are responsible for how we act and react. It is sad indeed that most people do their “research” and get their information on Facebook as if it is the bastion of truth.

It is not lost on me that every side has an agenda, every side wants to be heard. What is disheartening is that people think that a meme on Facebook and other outlets of information is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. One post on Facebook made the statement that nurses not being allowed to work in a hospital without being vaccinated was tat amount to living in a communist country. Meanwhile, this same person was and is a supporter of a former President who not only admired but defended and attempted to mirror the very head of communism, Putin. This same former President that tried to overturn a legitimate, legal, constitutional election, who rallied and fomented an attack on the Capitol, and in the face of incontrovertible evidence, his supporters in Congress are doing all they can to revise history. Not so different from state after state in GOP control are doing all they can to erase America’s history of racism.

It may appear that I am taking sides here, and in some ways I am. But my purpose for writing this is not about taking sides, it’s about coming together and acknowledging our difference without anger, without violence, without destroying history. We need history so that we may learn from it, grow from it, and change things for the better for ALL people.

As we are dealing with a resurgence of covid, we are coming into a time of enhanced divisiveness and violence over masks and vaccines. Meanwhile, while we fight over masks, fight over the efficacy of the vaccines, let me remind those who protest the vaccines that if it were not for vaccines for polio, malaria, smallpox, and Diptheria, many of you would not even be alive.

I close this rambling to simply say this: I believe America is on the precipice of great change. It is up to each of us to determine what that change is going to look like. Do we come together in respect and civility with the common goal to improve our country for ALL people? Or do we continue the decline, thinking the more we argue, fight and disrespect one another, the better we will be?

Deep within every person is as Lincoln said, “the better angels of our nature”. I pray that each of us connects with those angels, allowing us to come together in a common cause to not only save ourselves but each other.

May you live in peace and the grace of all things good.

Michael

http://www.mntmyst.com

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