A few weeks back I wrote my first article on the subject of civil discourse. This week I wanted to discuss a way I am working on improving my practice of the subject. One of the political podcasts I listen to asked a question that really resonated with me. They asked who we followed on social media. Did we follow anyone who disagreed with our political opinions or did we stay in a safe zone with friends who agreed with us. I realized that I wasn’t following anyone whose viewpoints were opposite mine, so I started seeking those people out. At first it felt very uncomfortable reading their opinions and posts because many are so hostile towards people who have similar views as I do. One person in particular tends to lump Democrats into a single group of Anti-American homophobes. His posts tend to bring out strong feelings in me because I’m not that way at all. But in thinking about it I started wondering what had happened in his life to make him feel this way. I continue to follow him because I want to learn more about his opinions. At first I didn’t comment on his posts because it felt too risky to draw attention to myself. But I’m getting braver and starting to challenge him on certain things. For example, a week or so ago he mentioned his belief that people who come to this country need to assimilate to “our culture.” So, I asked him what he saw as being “our culture”. I’m still waiting for a response I know I probably won’t get any time soon. But, as I’m figuring out, part of civil discourse is discussion, so I need to engage others in conversation about what their opinions are. That alone pushes me, an introvert, out of my comfort zone which is incredibly difficult. Will people challenge my beliefs and my opinions? I know they will and some might not be as “civil” about it as I will always try to be. But it’s all part of my education in learning about other viewpoints on subjects. And that’s what really matters to me.
Reading and hearing about US President Donald Trump’s almost daily insults of others got me wondering his schoolyard bullying tactics were something new or if political insults have always leaned more towards the childish. Turns out, in the past, political insults could really be quite poetic and eloquent. Below are a few gems that I mined from the Internet.
“Garfield has shown that he is not possessed of the backbone of an angleworm.”
– Ulysses S. Grant (1822-85), 18th American president, on James A. Garfield (1831-81), 20th American president
“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.”
– attorney John Bright on Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81)
“He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.”
– Winston Churchill on Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947)
“He slept more than any other president, whether by day or night. Nero fiddled, but Coolidge only snored.”
– H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) on Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933)
“[His ideas of popular sovereignty are] as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.”
– Abraham Lincoln, on his political rival Senator Stephen Douglas.
“Take from him his sophisms, futilities, and incomprehesibilities and what remains? His foggy mind.” -Thomas Jefferson, aiming high at Plato.
“McKinley has a chocolate eclair backbone.”
-Theodore Roosevelt on his predecessor William McKinley.
““That Washington is not a scholar is certain. That he is too illiterate, unlearned, unread for his station is equally beyond dispute.”
– John Adams on George Washington
“His soul is poisoned with ambition.”
– John Adams on Thomas Jefferson
“He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”
– Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards on misstatements made by George Bush, Sr.
“A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.”
-President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Ahhhh, the good old days. I would love to see this kind of writing in today’s political environment, it would be hilarious.
Immigration is a quagmire of an issue so I’m starting out in the shallow end. I’m a first generation American. My dad was from Canada and my mom is from Sweden. They both followed proper procedures to live here legally and my mother became a US citizen about 15 years ago. My belief is that the procedures in place should be followed by everyone who wants to live in this country. Those who enter our country illegally should be sent home again.
The challenge begins when children are involved. When illegal immigrants have children in the United States, those children are automatically U.S. citizens with the same rights as every other citizen. So, if the parents are caught and deported back to their country of origin, do they take their child back to the country they risked everything to leave? Or do they leave them behind to hopefully find a better life than they had. Like I said, it gets very complicated so quickly. The heart is in conflict with the rational. My rational side thinks send them back home. My heart and empathy feel like they should stay because whatever situation they risked everything to leave behind must have been pretty terrible and how as a nation can we send them back to that? I’ve been in conflict about that for a while now and it’s hard to think about. Seeing images on the television and online of families being torn apart by immigration agents are heartbreaking to watch. At the same time however, I’m reminded that there is a process that everyone who wants to live in this country is free to follow in order to become a legal citizen and if they choose not to follow those procedures then they have to accept the consequences of that choice.
Like I said in the beginning, this issue is a total quagmire of different aspects all knotted together. You pull one thread and three more start to unravel. There is so much more to be said about this issue that I want to say but this is a start for me and I feel like I’ve said enough for now. I need to research the issue more so if anyone of you reading this have any good resources with information on immigration let me know, I’m always looking for more resources.
“United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy the union upon which our existence hangs.” Patrick Henry 1799
The heads on the television are talking over each other again. It seems to have become a staple of cable news stations today. They come in with their talking points ready to express their views but not ready to listen to the other side. This is the situation the media shows us over and over. People arguing over issues rather than listening to each other and maybe learning. Maybe even realizing that they agree on more than they could have ever imagined. It seems like the society the media shows has become one where if someone disagrees with you they are the enemy and have to be ridiculed and insulted until they go away. For example I responded to a tweet on Twitter regarding the removal of Confederate statues in the United States. Almost immediately I was attacked by a guy I didn’t even know who called me a “traitor.” I responded with respectful responses and he eventually gave up when he couldn’t outwardly rattle me. I’ve only recently begun to voice my opinion online and to have a total stranger go from zero to sixty on me was an eye-opening experience to say the least. But that’s what we keep seeing happening over and over again. If you don’t agree with someone you use schoolyard tactics such as name-calling and bullying. Even the President of the United States behaves this way towards those who criticize or speak out against him. How are our children supposed to learn to be civilized and active listeners if the people they are supposed to look up to can’t do it? Shouldn’t he, at least, be held to a higher standard? As you may have noticed, I keep putting the focus on the media because they choose to show society in this light. Confrontation makes for higher ratings. But is it an accurate vision of the majority of the citizenry in this country? I believe there are countless people out there who are capable of civil discourse. They strive to practice this because it’s the only way our country can survive is by working together towards a common goal. We have become a country divided by “us” and “them” in an alarmingly short period of time. I realize there has always been an undercurrent of this, but it seems like recently it has become a very sharp divide. It’s easier to hold onto one’s beliefs than learn about others, and I get that. We live in the information age where there is so much information out there it is overwhelming. The work that needs to be done in order to understand other opinions on subjects seems daunting. And it is, but our country’s future hinges on our dedication to be united or at least more united than we have been in recent years. And that is going to happen when we take the time to learn about our supposed opponents and find a way to treat each other’s opinions with respect and compassion.
I was going to write about something else today but the latest school shooting in Florida is all that I can think about. Seventeen more innocent people killed for no reason. Another murderer who got his hands on an automatic rifle and made his sadistic dream a reality. Who knows how long he had planned his killing spree or why he chose Valentine’s Day to carry it out. The question everyone is asking is why won’t the US government act? Do they have some secret quota that has to be met? Ten thousand dead first? Twenty thousand dead? How many innocent people have to have their lives cut short before the government listens to its people and acts? It boggles the mind how we have mass shootings weekly and Congress just sits there and offers up its thoughts and prayers but nothing else. No measures to curb gun sales. No measures to make automatic rifles illegal. Nothing. Now, I understand we have the Second Amendment and I feel like everyone has a right to own a gun but when the Founding Fathers wrote that amendment it took up to 30 seconds to reload a rifle. They could have never dreamed there would someday be a gun that could shoot multiple rounds per second. Something needs to change. The shooter yesterday, whose name I’m purposely not using, was known to students, teachers, even the FBI. So how was he able to get an automatic rifle? How was he able to gain ownership of a gun whose only purpose is to kill people? Something needs to change. I’ve had enough and the country as a whole has had enough. Enough with just thoughts and prayers, it’s time for action.
Since President Trump was elected, I’ve become much more interested in politics and what we as citizens can do in response. One thing I’ve been doing is listening to political podcasts. One podcast is called “One Year Later,” and the other day I listened to an episode, that was recorded late last year, where they talked about how people have gotten out of practice when it comes to discussing politics. It got me thinking. What are the two things we are told never to discuss: religion and politics. These two subjects are divisive issues. They tend to bring fiery responses with very little fuel. And that is what those in charge, in the United States, are counting on. Politics can be so uncomfortable to talk about that we avoid it. So, I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone to discuss it. Starting next Sunday and every Sunday after that, I will post something political. It’s a nerve-wracking but necessary step for me to take. Now is not the time to remain silent. It is our civic duty to make sure the foundation that makes our country great remains strong and stable. And that takes discussion and civil discourse, which will be the subject of my first political post next week. And even though my attempts may be wobbly at times, it is better than not saying anything at all.