What happened to civility in our political discourse?
On Sunday a spiffy Cadillac pulled up next to me at a stoplight. As a tinted window buzzed down, I thought, “have I done something wrong?” But the well-heeled lady waved and said, “my husband and I want to thank you. Your bumper sticker made us laugh all down this road, something we haven’t done much lately. Wherever did you get it?”
This American election season has been bizarre, at best. So polarizing, so depressing to folks from both ends of the political spectrum and to the indecisive bouncing in the middle betwixt the volatile extremes.
Last week at a busy Costco in Newport News, (our closest big city), I looked up and down the full row in the huge parking lot. Not one political sticker graced any bumpers (but mine, of Trekkish political aspirations.) I looked over the next row to observe the same: no stickers. That’s highly unusual in a Presidential election year in these parts!
It’s the same in our neighborhood. During the last few elections we’ve seen campaign sign wars on both sides of the street (literally.) This year only one neighbor put a sign out.
Many of us on all sides of the political spectrum feel let down by our choices for Presidential candidates. Angry. Upset. Maybe our candidate didn’t make it past the primary. Or just plain bewildered. How has it come to this?
I was very active politically in my University days and afterward for five years living in Washington, D.C. The folks I worked for did so much across the political aisle to tackle important social issues, like homelessness and much more that require the collective efforts of all parties to enact change.
That was years ago but one thing I learned in D.C. – there are good people working hard on all sides of the political spectrum despite challenges of mud-slinging press and divisive political machinations.
Fast forward to social media antics of today. Sometimes posts on Facebook and other outlets make me cringe. People boast they have ‘unfriended’ those of differing views. Name calling, nasty rhetoric, polarizing tweets and instantgrams go back and forth.
What happened to civil discourse? Like, when we agree to disagree and still be friends? I have been blessed with many friends from different cultures, religions, countries, ethnicities, and political backgrounds who have enriched my life. Yes, many times we’ve disagreed on specific issues (sometimes heatedly), but they know I care about them and I know they care about me no matter what.
As both political parties have let us down this election, understand that things are a bit complicated this time around. I strongly dislike my party’s candidate and will most likely vote the other way this year; however, I abhor some things about both candidates. There are many, many people like me caught in this quandary.
We all have issues we hold close to our hearts. Indeed, this year many important issues are on the table. While many folks, like me, are not happy with either candidate, some support one or the other for a particular stand on various issues. That doesn’t make them racists or bigots or leftist liars.
But, puhleeez! I am so fed up with religious leaders implying voting for one candidate is God’s way. Get real! We Americans are a diverse bunch, so too, our churches and religious places of worship reflect diversity and many differing views. I’ve got news for these ostracizing leaders and their followers…
God is not Democrat.
God is not Republican.
And, guess what?!? (This might shock some folks), God is NOT American!
God is above & beyond all our political divisions and national boundaries.
And the love of God is for ALL of us, whatever our ethnicity, religion, country, gender or political hue.
In this election, there are many issues at stake. Each one of us must prayerfully evaluate what’s important in our hearts and vote accordingly. And then, engage in a little civility. Treat others as we want them to treat us, like the Golden Rule.
To my Christian family and friends, I challenge you with the example of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper. After He tenderly washed their feet, Jesus commanded them, “Now, you must go and do likewise for each other.” I imagine He looked implicitly at Simon the Zealot, a revolutionary bent on overthrowing Roman occupation, and Matthew, the former tax collector collaborator with the Roman occupiers.
Both look at each other, “you mean, him? Wash his feet? The one with the most completely different political agenda? The one I have a hard time being with in the same room?”
Jesus didn’t say to ‘barely tolerate each other,’ but ‘wash each other’s feet.’ So, to, we should wash the feet of those with whom we disagree with respect, civility, and love that knows no boundaries.
As people of faith we put our trust in God, Who has an everlasting well of love & mercy for us that never runs dry. God’s love is here for us no matter what happens, in disasters and after, in good times and bad, and even in this polarizing American election!
Who knows what will happen next Tuesday? But no matter what, people of faith, let’s ask God for the grace to be civil conciliators – conduits of peace, dignity, civility and respect for all. Let’s choose to be beacons of love that dissipates hate.
Let’s show a little civility, please!
grace, peace & civility
Virginia : )
p.s. My bumper sticker candidates offer some serious wisdom for us:
“The prejudices people feel about each other disappear when they get to know each other.” Captain Kirk (Star Trek, “Elaan of Troyius”)
“I have been, and always shall be, your friend.” Spock (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
“I am pleased to see that we have differences. May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.” Surak of Vulcan (Star Trek, “The Savage Curtain”)
“Peace or utter destruction. It’s up to you.” Captain Kirk (“A Taste of Armageddon”)
p.s.2. While interviewing a political activist on his late-show last week, well-known Democrat Stephen Colbert asked if she knew anyone voting for Trump. “No, I don’t think I know one person.” Colbert responded, “well, I know a few. I might be related to a few. They’re nice people. Nice people can vote for both people.”