How wonderful it would be to hear someone say, “That’s something to consider” during discussions of today’s divisive topics. Unfortunately those words are hardly—if ever—heard.
Everyone has their opinion whether it is about face masks, vaccines, taxes or school resource officers. Anyone paying attention to media of any kind would be excused for thinking that no topic goes undebated. They are not debates so much as people disparaging their counterparts.
Free speech is one of the greatest gifts America has given itself, but it has not always been easy. Through the centuries of the United States people have died for expressing their beliefs—the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol is but the latest example.
We teach our young children that words and hands are not for hurting yet that is a message that fades as we get older and revel in the fact we have the ability to express ourselves any time we wish.
Hands and weapons can hurt and kill; words harm. Is it possible for our society to lower the civic temperature? What will it take for disgreements to go from fierce discourse to patience and tolerance?
Beliefs are part of who humans are. Who wants to be characterized as weak if they should pause and ponder what someone on the opposite side of an issue is saying?
Rodney King asked in Los Angeles in 1992, “Can’t we all just get along?” The same question is still viable almost 30 years later. People are generally good—we should remind ourselves of that. Everyday. People don’t wake up in the mornnig and wonder how they can mess up somebody’s day. We all respond to what we hear and experience during our day.
Social media has made it easy for us to react immediately to what we read. Many times we react without thinking what we want to say—we defend and reinforce our beliefs. which can cause grief for others.
The key to civility is listening. People want to be heard and not have their beliefs belittled. We are all products of our backgrounds and exprience, we can’t change that. We can change how we respond to what people say.
It is hard to envision a time in the near future when the vitriol lessens, but it must start somewhere. It should begin with each of us. Hard-rock beliefs will not be abandoned. If we can listen, ponder and consider ideas and beliefs different than our own, that will go a long way to a calmer more civil society.
We all want to same thing: peace, love and security.
(Lyndon Zaitz is publisher and editor of the Keizertimes.)