OPINION: Civility has to start with you and me
Now, more than ever, America needs to come together in civility.
In a single week, we saw pipe bombs mailed to thirteen targets across the US and eleven people murdered in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The divisions between us ended eleven lives, and there’s no telling how much worse it could have been if those pipe bombs weren’t intercepted.
This should be one of those moments where our nation puts aside our differences and stands together.
But we’re not doing it.
Instead, we’re hearing politicians throw blame at each other or at the media for the actions of two madmen. We’re seeing the lines of division that caused these tragedies stretched, tearing us further and further apart. And all we’re doing is waiting for someone else to fix it.
But we’re looking to the wrong people. If civility is going to come back to America, it isn’t going to start with politicians and it isn’t going to start with the media.
It has to start with you and me.
Civility isn’t going to start with politicians
After the pipe bombing and the shooting last week, we’ve heard politicians come out and talk about civility. But talking about it is all they’ve done.
Hillary Clinton, after getting a pipe bomb mailed to her house, told an audience in Florida that “we have to do everything we can to bring our country together.”
That sounds great — but there’s not a lot of reason to believe that she really meant it. This, after all, was coming from the same woman who, just one week earlier, told CNN: “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.”
Civility, according to Hillary Clinton, wasn’t going to come back to America through mutual respect or decency. Instead, she told CNN: “If we are fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.”
That’s how politicians see it. Civility, peace, and decency are important – but not as important as winning. First, we need to get in power. Then we can have peace.
Even after the pipe bomb scare, the only thing that changed for Hillary Clinton was her rhetoric. Sure, she told her supporters that we need to bring the country back together, but she didn’t even finish that sentence before turning a tragedy into another opportunity to take a jab at Republicans.
Immediately after her call for peace, Clinton added: “We also have to elect candidates who will try to do the same.” She didn’t even take a breath. She went right back to digging those divisions back up.
But it’s not just Hillary Clinton that does this. It’s everybody. Our president, Donald Trump, has jumped on both of last week’s tragedies as opportunities to criticize the media.
Here’s what he tweeted after investigators say Cesar Sayoc mailed pipe bombs around the country:
A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2018
And here’s what he tweeted after eleven innocent people were murdered inside of a synagogue:
There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly. That will do much to put out the flame…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2018
Eleven people died, and to the people we’ve elected to run this country, it was nothing more than another chance to bash their opponents.
We can’t look to our politicians to fix this. When there’s a tragedy, the best we get from them is a few minutes of good behavior. And then their short memories kick in and they go right back to bashing each other.
Civility has to start with you and me
The only way civility will come back to our conversations is right here at the grassroots level.
Politicians aren’t the only people spreading this toxic rhetoric. We allow it to seep into every part of our lives. We’ve let it affect us to the point where we can’t even have conversations without letting it escalate until we outright hate each other.
On the very day that the pipe bomb sent to Hillary Clinton hit the news, President Trump held a campaign rally in Wisconsin. And as soon her name was as much as mentioned, the whole crowd erupted into a chant of: “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
It’s not just politicians. It’s all of us. We’ve let our political differences divide us so much that we’re losing basic human compassion.
We’re not all going to turn into terrorists and bombers, but the divisions between are still affecting us. They’re making us fly into a rage when we see friends post something on Facebook that we disagree with. They’re making us squabble over the Thanksgiving table because a family member supports a different political party.
We’re as much a part of the problem as they are. And we can’t just sit here waiting for them to get better without taking a look at ourselves.
The only way civility is going to come back to our conversation is if we bring it back.
It’s talking to your neighbor. It’s going on Facebook and not becoming toxic. It’s listening to crazy uncle spout his conspiracy theories and not losing your mind over it.
That’s where civility has to start: with you and me.
Dave Noriega is the host of Dave & Dujanovic, which can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio.
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