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On Rick Wilson, CNN, And Civility

As the old saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right.

I’ve seen the CNN segment with Rick Wilson going around the interwebs this morning and you’ve no doubt seen it too. I condemn it. It does nothing to resolve our political differences and instead deepens the divide.

On the other hand, much of the weeping and gnashing of teeth is disingenuous since verbal abuse has become a staple of Republican politics for years. It’s a feature, not a bug. Republican outlets have posted many offensive attacks on those who disagree with them. I’ve personally been called just about every name under the sun because I have had the temerity to disagree with Republicans on a variety of issues such as immigration, impeachment, and reflexively believing the worst about the other side.

The president himself has called the other side “human scum” and “enemies of the people” among many other things. Many of the people rending their garments over Wilson and CNN will be the same ones who were chortling over the video of Trump’s greatest insults that made the rounds several weeks ago, people who tuned in to the 2016 debates to watch Trump and his opponents trading barbs and then said that’s the sort of fighting spirit that the GOP needs.

That isn’t an excuse for Wilson and CNN, but it is a fact. And I’ll also acknowledge that Trump didn’t start the war of words between the two parties. However, the president and his supporters have raised the politics of insults to an art form.

The point is not that either side is right. As the old saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right.

From my experience as an admin on a political Facebook page that I have administered throughout both the Obama and Trump Administrations, I can tell you that partisans of both tribes are indistinguishable in their reactions to criticism of their man. I’ve had to ban legions of both because they could not seem to obey the simple rule that debates should be kept civil and without name-calling.

The point is that both sides have abandoned the Golden Rule that you should treat others the way that you want to be treated (not, as Barack Obama famously misquoted it, the way they actually treat you). For Christians, that is going to involve turning the other cheek when the other side doesn’t immediately mimic your high-road behavior, but we are called to be different from those who don’t claim to know Christ, not to sink to their level. And that applies to Christians on both sides of the political divide as well.

On the other hand, if you insist on engaging in playground insults of the other tribe then you should be able to take it as well as dish it out. It’s hypocritical to unload on the other side and then cry foul when they fire back. To put it another way, you reap what you sow.

The better course (and one that I think a majority of voters would appreciate) is for both sides to act like adults and focus on the issues rather than personal attacks. Another old adage comes to mind that says you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Aside from wondering why anyone would want to catch a fly, the maxim points out the obvious truth that you probably aren’t going to badger an opponent into seeing things your way by calling him names. You’re more likely to push him to vote for the other team.

Insulting the opposition is the easy way out and is often the last resort of those who don’t have facts on their side. The next time you feel the urge to call someone an idiot, take Samuel Johnson’s advice and, rather than raising your voice, reinforce your argument.

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