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Column: A call to civility

Posted: February 8, 2018 2:59 p.m.
Updated: February 9, 2018 1:00 a.m.

“I’m sorry.”

“Thank you.” 

Obscenities excluded, these are two of the more powerful short sentences in the English language. A true sign of maturity is when a person has the wisdom, confidence and humility to utter these two simple phrases appropriately. Can you imagine the giant leap toward restoration of civility and sanity in our political system if we had leaders who were humble enough to apologize when wrong and were gracious enough to show appreciation to someone with whom they may disagree? Instead, too many partisan leaders turn every misstep into a disgusting, political sideshow and minimize every accomplishment.

There were many examples of these political sideshows in 2017 and unfortunately, we enter a new year with the release and overblown press coverage of a book written by a partisan, opportunistic writer who supports the Democratic position that President Trump is mentally unstable and is not a legitimate president. Like others, I have been dismayed by many of President Trump’s tweets. However, the excessive attention to this book and continued drumbeat for war against President Trump feeds the narrative to President Trump’s supporters that the main stream press is fake news. This must stop to restore civility in our politics.

How do we restore some semblance of civility in our society and sanity in our politics?

The popular musician, Michael Jackson had the answer when he sang: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways, and no message could have been any clearer, if you wanna make the world  a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.” No disrespect or irony intended, but Michael Jackson might still be alive today if he had heeded his own words. His untimely demise and many difficulties offer a glimpse of our future if we don’t heed them. 

We show that we are looking in the mirror when we demonstrate that we have the ability to say; “I am sorry” and “thank you” and more importantly, actually view that ability as a strength that we demand of our leaders instead of a weakness that eliminates them from consideration of office.

We restore credibility of our news organizations by turning off news shows that are blatantly partisan, and we demand our press focus on issues that matter.

We make a change by recognizing that we are the people who elect boastful, narcissistic leaders on both sides of the aisle who have no ability to admit fault and look to every crisis or misstep as an opportunity to shame the opposition. It’s time to demand and elect citizen leaders who utilize respectful debate instead of partisan politics to implement policy. 

I have a really good friend who, like me, enjoys respectful debate/ discussion. I enjoy a respectful discussion in which both parties are truly looking to learn from one another to see both sides of an issue. That type of discussion leads to a greater understanding of an issue and maybe even a way to solve a problem. I don’t really like the term debate because a debate usually implies there there’s a winner or a loser, which limits open discussion. A respectful discussion ends at the first vindictive personal attack or loud, angry rebuke. (Yes, President Trump would have been disqualified during the presidential debates if they were following my idea of a respectful discussion). Since my friend and I have mutual respect for one another, we can have a spirited discussion where we look for areas of agreement, areas where we may need more information to be truly informed, or simply areas where we agree to disagree. We can discuss an issue and remain very good friends.  He recently asked me, “Dennis, what political party do you think I should support?” My response was, “You should support people who hold positions on issues that most closely resemble your own beliefs.” Somewhat uncomfortably, I stated that, “I believe Martin Luther King’s dream was for us to get beyond identity politics. I also think you need to look beyond the label of Republican or Democrat, because I believe you have the confidence and wisdom to hold conservative views on some issues and more liberal views on others. Party labels often dictate that we must be one or the other on all issues and I think that is a ‘lose-lose’ proposition.”

“I am sorry” and “thank you” are two powerful statements in our language with regard to restoration of civility in our society. The restoration of sanity in our political system requires that we discard our “proud Republican” or “proud Democrat” T-shirts and replace them with one that says “I am a Moderate,” a species that’s growing ever closer to extinction in both political parties.


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