I always marveled when watching film clips of British Parliament as they would shout, boo, and speak over any person at the podium they disagreed with. I always thought it was rude and was certain we’d never act that way in the USA. Boy ... was I wrong!
The level of civility we enjoyed in our past has been shattered and I’m afraid may never return.
How’d we get here?
One side will always blame the other but don’t jump too quick. The left squarely blames President Trump, but it began developing long before him. Think back to President Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The GOP House decided to impeach President Clinton, knowing they could not get the Senate to agree. They proceeded anyway (much like the Trump impeachment) to score political points and to embarrass the President.
When George W Bush was elected, the left didn’t forget and took revenge. Through surrogates, President Bush was labeled stupid, uneducated, incompetent, and worse. The vitriol was shocking. Fast forward to the election of President Obama. The anger among politicians and the nation turns up a few notches and the temperature of the debate rises. Contrary to some who claim otherwise, I don’t believe it was racially motivated but instead a widening separation of ideology. The politicians were slowly moving away from the use of surrogates and the name calling became personal and direct.
Next, we elected a businessman who promised to “drain the swamp” (it is a swamp) and it has now, not only become fashionable to call each other names on Capital Hill and the media ... it’s become acceptable ... it’s encouraged. It’s a disgusting mess.
Adults on both sides acting like spoiled children.
Of course, it’s wrong and both sides know it. They can’t stop pointing their finger at the other side long enough to acknowledge the problem and join to fix it.
We reap what we sow.
What are we teaching our children through this example of name-calling hyperbole? We are already seeing the fruits of our lack of civility play out in the streets and on the news. Brick-throwing, neighborhood-burning, looting, extreme violence, and murder are a few of the products of the example set on both sides of the aisle. It’s becoming acceptable to do anything to anyone you may disagree with.
For partisan reasons, a few will disagree, but I point to President Ronald Reagan as the “gold standard” of civility and eloquence. Forget your political ideology and focus only on the civility of his rhetoric. Where is our next Politician of civility? Will there ever be another?
A few weeks ago, I said, optimistic people do not act this way, and it’s true. When you believe something better is possible, your mind and body conspire together to make the optimistic vision you see, a reality.
Want to positively impact the future of our nation and world? Raise a generation of optimistic children. Want to bring back civility to our nation? Nurture a positive and optimistic attitude in the classroom.
Last year, I spent time substitute teaching to help a local school district. I encountered a sense of helplessness and pessimism in most students. I experienced firsthand the vulgar language and name-calling that will follow them into adulthood if something doesn’t change within our educational system and in our homes.
I don’t think civility is dying in our country, it’s being killed.
What should we do? We need to launch “The American Institute for Positivity and Optimism in Education.” In this center there would be an effort to educate parents on the long-lasting and positive impact of optimism in their lives and lives of their children. This center would also educate teachers on how to instill optimism into their students’ lives.
We also must move our higher education institutions back the center where students can hear competing voices and make choices for themselves. As of now, most of our colleges and universities have become centers of indoctrination where only one side is heard. Differing thought is not tolerated. There can’t be civility without inclusion and acceptance of others and their differing pints of view.
I’m out of space for today’s column, but you certainly get the picture.
I choose to continue to fight for and preach the benefits of living an optimistic life.
Will you join me?