Right now, every night, people sit down and watch their new version of reality television. People can turn on Fox News and watch them bash the people at MSNBC and the dreaded ‘liberals.’ Or people can turn on MSNBC and watch them bash the people at Fox News and the dreaded ‘conservatives.’ People who are interested in politics, if we are remotely honest, have all done it and have gotten a charge out of the statements made on both sides. It is one part news, two part commentary, and three parts entertainment. And we eat it all up.
At our peril.
Every day, while driving to and from work, or on road trips, people listen to ‘hate radio,’ my new term for what used to be called ‘talk radio.’ We can listen to people from the right or the left haul off and blast people who disagree with them.
Any such concept as ‘middle ground’ has been shattered by the screaming, the yelling, the venom, and, sadly, hate that is rapidly growing in our nation. There is an increasing loss of civility and respect in the interaction of people with one another.
This is not particular new to right now. It has been growing and growing and growing. It is ugly and incredibly sad.
St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
The words ‘love’ used in this passage is a Greek word, agape, which is often translated as charity or as respectfulness. Paul was not referencing people ‘in love’ or even as friends, those were other words in Greek. These words are used in reference to how we treat people each and every day.
The complete and utter lack of respect that we see and the lack of civility in the exchanges of people, wherever they are taking place is, in a word, repugnant. It has, quite frankly, shaken me to my core and has abruptly put much of my rather quick ability to use sarcastic humor on hold in many instances. It is no longer funny. There are several things that feed into this:
First, when we choose to lack civility towards others, we feed this new wave of cruelty. When our words and our deeds are angry and disrespectful towards others, when we shout others down, etc., our very behavior feeds this mean spiritedness.
Secondly, when we support those who lack civility, we feed it as well. I have stopped watching, stopped listening, and stopped reading the vitriol. As soon as I see a person bashed on television I have been changing the channel. I’ve been watching a lot of the NFL Network and the Food Channel as well as reruns of NCIS of late. (In fairness, this is not painful for me!) I look at headlines through the day on the Internet and read well crafted stories from all different perspectives. Until they get mean, then I stop. There is that old cliche that says that if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. The more we watch and listen to the hate, the more part of the problem we are.
Thirdly, let’s make sure we encourage people around us to be positive and not negative. It is funny because when people are mean-spirited and they get called on it, they stop because they are embarrassed.
There are positive things we can do.
First, follow the advice of St. Paul. Be patient. Be kind. Don’t be boastful, or arrogant, or rude.
Secondly, we all need to learn a lesson in humility. There is something to this that goes greater than might meet the eye. We often get boastful, arrogant, and rude in discussions and turn them into arguments because of our rudeness. This often takes place because we are sure that we are right and the other person or people happen to be wrong. But they might not be. No matter how convinced we are that we are correct about something, we might not be correct. Most of us, if we are remotely honest, can attest to times we have been wrong. In our conversations with others, it’s important to have the humility to recognize this.
Thirdly be honest and demand honesty. One thing that I have found incredibly disturbing with the healthcare debate is that the truth and the facts are very elusive things. We are in the midst of a public relations effort with people attempting to terrify us if we do reform healthcare or if we don’t reform healthcare. There is a great deal of misinformation being spread and many of the allegedly ‘neutral’ sources are not neutral. We need to demand honesty from ourselves as well as others.
And lastly, let us never forget to be kind.