A Symbolic Gesture

I can’t say that I wasn’t warned about discussing religion and politics. 

A large chunk of the responses I have received when have I written about those topics has been discouraging. It was not because people disagreed with me, but because they obviously did not read the entire post or missed the overall message and addressed one thing that happened to set them off. It was because their only response was a short, snarky few words that generated no light, only heat. 

I try hard to develop my own opinions and do not buy into a particular political party, that has garnered me disfavor from liberals and conservatives alike. I have been called all sorts of things, labels, labels that do not fit. I was even kicked off of a liberal Facebook group because I didn’t use the exact terminology that was apparently required.

Politics is not sport because it affects all of our lives. It is not a game to play. Again, it is far too serious for that. Yet, everything is not political and there is much more to life than politics.

Culture will not follow our particular preferred paradigm. That is unreasonable, but it makes some people mad. Some people want to be mad and stay mad. They need an enemy.

My various recent internet feeds have included the confederate battle flag, proclaiming Trump as an orange Hitler, Nancy Pelosi as someone who is seeking to destroy America and has had so much Botox treatment that she can’t blink, and Mitch McConnel’s appearance has been likened to that of Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies. And yes, I have received much worse than I will repeat here. Only a couple have been even remotely funny.

Some of the responses I have encountered sound like arguing children. He started it. He said something mean about me. 

How is this helping the country? How is this promoting civil discourse? How is this making things better?

Do we have differences? Of course. Is that bad? Of course not. Unless we are vindictive and uncivil. Unless our division locks us in a quagmire of a perpetually unyielding binary schism in which the only thing we can accomplish is ridicule and hatred. Unless we resort to violence. 

Echo chambers. Ridicule. Stoking the fires of distrust and disdain. No solutions. No inclusion. No way forward.

It is not as though there is no way forward. It has been there all the time. Our nation was built on it: civil discourse.

Snarky comments are easy, but only make matters worse.

Civil discourse is difficult. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of time and a lot of patience. We had better find a way to have conversations with people who look different than us and have a different set of experiences and a different opinion. 

A couple of days ago I was involved a spirited political discussion. There was core disagreement on a basic philosophical level. Yet, as we talked late into the night, we found agreement on two things.

Elections should be cleaned up so there are no deputes. Perhaps, technology could be used to take a thumb print, or something like that.

Term limits would honor the intention of our founders and put a lid on the amount of power and wealth an official could amass from his public service.

We hammered out something positive, while disagreeing on a lot of other things. Now it is up to each of us to do what we will with these ideas.

What is the new symbolic gesture that we need? It is an outreached hand – outstretched to someone who differs with us. (That’s not too pandemic appropriate, but you get the idea.) A listening ear, an open mind, getting together over a meal or a beverage.

Without it the great American experiment will disintegrate.

The key to keeping the experiment alive is being heard. When people believe they are not heard or are misrepresented, they get mad. And the only way for people to be heard is to listen.

Speaking of experiments, what are your suggestions for promoting civility and improving our government?

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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