Why has our society become so decidedly un-civil?
Politics, of course, seems to drive it all. And that is surprising, considering how much disdain we all seem to have for all in office. Any office. At the most basic statistic, Congress has not had the approval of even one-third of Americans in more than a decade. The much-maligned “Dogcatcher” position is better-received.
So, if we near-universally seem to despise politics (two-thirds for sure, anyway), why has our public discourse been so “dragged”—in the parlance of the day—by the nonsense of their realm?
Is it train-wreck voyeurism? Good old schadenfreude? Do we need dopamine doses from lamenting legislative inanities? Are we trying to fit in by following the herd, piling-on the momentarily weak and defenseless? Why the wedge?
While not a good-government “Goo-Goo” optimist like my favorite high school teacher, I do believe that people—as people—strive to join, to heal, to uplift, to share, to be good, to do good, to see good (in all!), to take care, and to uphold, eagerly, the Golden Rule. All without the implicit or wet-ink weight of Congressional blessing.
Mankind has survived via a special kind of collectivism—especially in a free, open and self-governed society. We have survived by not mutually-destructing. So why do we seem hell-bent on it, now, at least rhetorically? Why, again, the wedge?
Why is a philosophical difference now the basis to declare one’s neighbor a mortal enemy? Literally.
I think we have forgotten to empathize with our neighbors. That pure, basic, human emotion of kindness and understanding.
We should not hate our neighbor because of a yard sign or a bumper sticker. As Tom Lehrer ironically opined decades ago: “I know there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!” We don’t all have to agree…but in today’s age we sure shouldn’t hate. In fact, our great country of freedom was built upon the concept of dissidence. Civil dissidence, of discourse, anyway.
My suggestion for a quick recalibration via other-shoe perspective? Take those steps through a hospital. That’s it.
You don’t need to be intrusive. Just mildly observant. You will see your brothers and sisters in all stages of humanity—relief, worry, unease, curiosity, frustration-borne-of-bureaucracy…and soul-challenging faith. And while they may deal with it differently from you and from me, we all will share a host of human emotions throughout our lifetimes.
Let’s try to be understanding. Let’s empathize. Let’s be civil.