“Is a danger to be trusting one another. One will seldom want to do what other wishes. But unless someday somebody trust somebody, there’ll be nothing left on Earth excepting fishes.” – King Mongkut, The King and I, Rogers and Hammerstein
Even if I were not vitally interested in the Fate of the Nation, as enacted on the national stage this year (ie., the elections upcoming), I live with a passionate 16-year-old. Sticking my fingers in my ears and humming LALALALALALA is not possible. And I am interested, anxious, horrified, angry, hopeful–the full damned gamut of emotions–about the Presidential race.
But I’m also getting creeped out, increasingly, by the kneejerk partisan rhetoric I’m subjected to, day after day. It ain’t that I don’t have opinions. But I have relationships to preserve (my brother and I are about has far apart on the political and religious spectrum as you can get and still be part of the same species, and yet I love him and do not want to start a land-war). I find myself increasingly unwilling to deal with Incivility in Discourse. And that includes Incivility on my side as well as the other.
Perhaps this means I’m a coward (for the record, I probably am. Loud noises and people hating each other distress me. I put it down to bad early training). But when my friends post gleeful memes mocking the entirely mock-able foibles of The Other Side, I laugh, but I also squirm. I love Rachel Maddow’s incisive, smart commentary, but I wish she’d temper her name-calling a little, because she’s playing to her base, and she’s not going to convince anyone who is undecided. Some of my more passionate atheist friends, tired of being called Satanic and Eeevil by the loudest of the Professionally Religious, are getting just as stridently incivil about religion as the folk who yell at them.
I crave evenhandedness, and this isn’t the year for it.
Aside from my general discomfort with the pitch of rage I’m encountering in political discussion, I keep coming back to this: how is any of this helping? God knows calling someone a name or making fun of their political opinions may make me, for a short time, feel all better and stuff. But because I do feel that the fate of the future is very much on the line, settling for feeling better in the short term may not be the best tactic. Certainly it isn’t for me.
For the next couple of months, here and in my other online interactions, I am going to try to be civil about politics, and demand, as much as I can, that others be so too. If this means shutting down a discussion on my Facebook feed because people of either stripe can’t resist a dig, so be it. If it means not reposting a meme I find truthful and funny because I know it’s also a cheap shot, I will grab myself by both hands and resist. I will declare my beliefs, but I won’t call someone a moron because he or she doesn’t share them. I’m going to attempt the same level of tact I approached when I was 14 and surrounded by my grandmother’s terrifyingly conservative friends (because Grannie loved them, and I loved Grannie).
To misquote another, far goopier song, “let there be civility on Earth, and let it begin with me.”