Five years ago I wrote an essay about our declining civility. Unfortunately, the situation has not improved. In fact we are headed in the wrong direction.
“You’re a liar.” “You’re a loser!”
Are these mean-spirited adolescents bullying each other? No, it’s the public rhetoric from a few people aspiring to be the leader of the free world.
“Mad as Hell”
Watching the Republican Presidential debates reminds me of the famous scene in the 1976 movie “Network”. The fictional news anchor, Howard Beale, learns that he has just two more weeks on the air because of declining ratings. Beale appears in a live broadcast demanding that his viewers shout out of their windows “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” While that was a fictional movie 40 years ago, today many of us are angry and are not afraid to voice our anger.
Toast to the President of the United States
Regardless of your political views the President was at one time a role model for our children and the office was respected. Some of you may be old enough to remember watching “Big Brother Bob Emery” on WBZ-TV. His program taught values like good citizenship. Do you remember the Toast to the President of the United States? There was President Eisenhower’s photo, and Big Brother would hold up a glass of milk, while “Hail to the Chief” played in the background.
Today what are our children learning from the behavior of these candidates? Bob Emery must be “rolling over in his grave”. Massachusetts has an anti-bullying law for children but what about adult bullying? Somehow mean-spiritedness and name-calling are now justified as free speech, being authentic or rejecting political correctness. Turn on the television or talk radio and you’ll hear pundits pontificating about how wrong the “other side” is. They point fingers and assign blame to those who are different or who hold different views.
Fighting for us
Each candidate wants to fight for us and against them. Do we really want our elected leaders to fight? With all the hype it sounds like Wrestlemania. (Remember the Battle of the Billionaires at WrestleMania 23?) The candidates’ bluster creates such divisive attitudes that citizens have a hard time rallying around the new president. But running for president is not entertainment staged by Vince McMahon and the WWE. Rather it is a choice among differences resulting in a leader who acts on our behalf regardless of our beliefs.
Our differences make our society unique and strong. Some people want to make America great again, while others want to make a more perfect Union. Some people dye their hair pink, while others simply wish they had more hair. Some people speak “broken English,” while others speak “Bostonian English.” Some people lean politically “conservative”, while others lean more “progressive.” While these are labels and it is easy to pigeon hole each other, we are a mosaic of differences. Don’t we adults need to model civility if we want to teach our children tolerance and respect?
In Search of Civility
This has got me thinking, where has our civility gone? So, I went searching for an answer. Here is what I discovered, just by paying attention, during the last several days:
Most of us are polite and respectful of others, regardless of the color of their hair or the accent in their speech. So, for those of you who wonder “Where has our civility gone?” politeness, respect and tolerance are alive and well. All we need to do is take the time to listen and be open. Maybe those that aspire to high office can learn from our behavior.