In the last 48 hours, I’ve seen people who have always got along in civil discussions devolve into screaming matches online, including walking away from longtime conversation groups. I’ve seen misunderstandings blow up into public feuds. I’ve seen a U.S. Senator call a reporter a “liberal hack” (it was CNN, so possibly deserved). What these things have in common is a lack of personal discipline to civility.
When the “solemn” procession walked across the Capitol rotunda, after Nancy Pelosi turned her signing ceremony into a tchotchke-filled cheap celebration of partisan hackery, I felt our government had finally emptied the last dregs of serious purpose from its cup.
Nearly three years ago, Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as President. I was there. As former President Obama’s chopper whirred overhead, the crowd chanted “na na na na, na na na na, hey hey goodbye!” Then paid activists went to work in front of pre-arranged cameras, torching limos and breaking windows to show how this president is so divisive.
It’s true that Trump has brought pugilism and “fight club” ethics into the White House. It’s true that he’s divisive, transactional, impulsive, glandular, and thin-skinned. It’s true that he refuses to read even the most dumbed-down policy papers (not that he’s incapable of digesting them, just that he doesn’t believe he needs them). He prefers to focus on people and getting them to do what he wants.
In that first part, Trump has it right. We’re all people. We should all focus on people, not policy objects and objectives, and funding targets, and polls. Hillary was/is a horrible candidate because she treated people like baubles and chess pieces, and believed polls and papers. Bernie Sanders is a monster waiting to happen because socialism at its core, treats people as a machine serving the state.
And politics is a terrible religion because it crushes people in service to power.
Our country, our government, your neighborhood, your kids’ schools, your workplace, your church or synagogue are all made up of people. Have the self-discipline to treat them like respected, loved human beings. Have the mercy to hear their complaints about all of the above terribleness and still want them to have a nice day. Have the compassion to pray for them.
We don’t have to give in to division and screaming. We can choose to stop it.
As I see it, we have no alternative.