It’s a funny thing about politics, religion, morality — we always assume that our beliefs are the “right” ones. Throughout history, we’ve spent billions of dollars and countless lives while trying to convince others of our “right-ness” on a variety of issues.
The First Amendment grants us the freedom of speech. However, it does not give permission for anyone to be verbally or physically abusive in declaring those beliefs. Sadly, we’ve become a society where reality TV sets a tone for our behavior — where shouting, namecalling and mudslinging are seen as acceptable. Elections rarely focus on real issues but are caught up in digging dirt, distorting statements, creating innuendo and half-truths that only generate distrust. We’re rapidly becoming a “Muck Dynasty.”
Yet, we’re so certain that we’re “right,” that we’ve convinced ourselves that the ends justify the means that it’s OK to distort things a bit in order to get our favored candidate into office. Because once they’re elected, they’ll be able to do things to enhance our version of “rightness.” We even have a democratic process to determine whose version of “right” will be the current one — he or she who gets the most votes wins. Simple, if everyone voted proactively rather than out of fear or frustration.
Even more important on this journey: What’s happened to respect? Words are our most powerful tools. Why aren’t we taught to consider the impact of those words, and the tone and volume with which they’re spoken?
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Furthermore, what are we teaching our youngsters when we scream and shout and spew our “rightness” with venom and intimidation? How can we then be shocked when we see children bullying their classmates or telling their teachers to “f-off”? Respect or disrespect — love or hatred — all are learned behaviors.
At any level or circumstance, it’s only through respectful dialogue that we find solutions for the common good. It’s only with respectful behavior that families and communities thrive.
I’m particularly saddened when a small peaceful community — my community of Arroyo Grande — has been torn apart over issues that should have been personal but were made to be political. I find the shouting, namecalling and half-truths to be disconcerting at best, and even frightening at times. We have a judicial process that decrees “one is presumed innocent until proven guilty.” Yet recently, we’ve had a vocal few who’ve taken it upon themselves to be judge, jury and executioner and are destroying lives along the way.
Despite my personal feelings that this incident received far more media coverage than warranted, my even bigger concern is the manner in which this fueled a rage and a rudeness and fostered a gross misuse of power from some.
It’s time to bring civility to the forefront.
Speak your truth, your “right-ness,” but please do so courteously, not with shouting and intimidation. And please allow our system of checks and balances to unfold to determine the “truth” in the eyes of the law.
We are the leaders and role models for upcoming generations; certainly we can demonstrate how to share our beliefs with respect, how to forgive errors in judgment, and how to focus on teamwork to build a community vision for our future. In the end, it’s what we teach our children today that will become our reality tomorrow.
Now that the election is behind us, it’s time to mend fences and deal with the real issues in our communities, not those contrived by politicians for the purpose of convincing us of their “right-ness.”