There is an irrational irony in today’s political turmoil that often gets lost amidst the mudslinging and line drawing. Every political group whether it be the Democrats, Republicans, or the Tea Party, is a combatant in a constant power struggle, and each believes that every step taken by the other is a step backwards from their end goal of an ideal America.
No matter what your political affiliation, we all want an ideal America for us and our posterity and we pick our political affiliations based on what group we think will get us there as quickly and efficiently as possible. This system of doing things has worked since this country’s inception and has seen us through many ups and downs. So what is missing today? Simply put, it is the good old fashioned concept of civility.
There have been differing opinions on the way this country should be run since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Yet previous generations somehow managed to avoid the frenzied, virulent, and even violent political landscape of today. The difference is that previous generations at least partially listened to the other side, and were thereby able to compromise and have a clear view of what needed to happen. The issue today is that politics have become so polarized that civility has been thrown out of the window. When groups with the same goal actively choose not to listen to each other, even go so far as to try to hinder the other group’s advances, we are left with no progress and an immature impasse with each group too stubborn to listen to the other.
What America needs now, more than ever, is civility. By accepting that the other side may actually have something to bring to the table, we can begin the road to compromise and ultimately a better future. Civil discourse is the engine that propels us towards progress and when we actively choose not to put the key in the ignition we cannot expect to get any where. If you look at the root of the problems with legislation like Health Care Reform, the Economic Stimulus, and recently the debate about the Bush tax cuts, you will see that the hindrances lies not in the concepts but the lack of compromise.
Let us take for example two supposedly “different” scenarios. You have Charles, your general stereotypical conservative Republican male, and Christopher, your general stereotypical liberal Democrat. While that language may lead you to think these men are polar opposites, the reality is that they have far more in common than not. Christopher and Charles both want job security and a better economy. Both want safe neighborhoods for their children as well as abundant opportunites for those children as they mature. Both want to be able to provide for their families and both want a leader who shares their goals.
So why is it that when Christopher turns on Rush Limbaugh in the car and Fox news at his office, he is bombarded with anti-Democrat sentiments, blaming them for the recession and saying that they are too loose with spending? By that same token, when Charles turns on his radio to Mike Malloy and his television to CNN, he hears nothing but invective about the racist and stupid GOP that wants to raise taxes on the poor and cut them for the rich.
This is the reason why there is no more civility in American politics. We are so busy name-calling and filibustering, that we forget why civil debate exists: to move us forward to an ideal America. If we all want the same thing, why can’t we all just get along?
When we draw lines and point fingers, we do nothing but hinder progress. What we as Americans need to do is put aside our differences and realize that we all have our country’s best interests at heart. We have seen where the blame game and the name calling have taken us. With the economy the way it is and internal tensions in the country rising by the day, we need civility and compromise now more than ever.
The shooting in Tuscon of Congresswoman Giffords has climaxed a major national debate about tone, civility, and discourse. We have witnessed the horrors that can occur when impressionable and unstable people are incensed by polarizing rhetoric. Now more than ever is the time to take that energy created by this incident and channel it into rediscovering the lost art of civility. Let us not let this sacrifice be in vain but rather let us sue it to finally bring the real question to the table. Why can’t we all just get along?
C. Randolph Keller II
Randy Keller, our son, is a 17 year old on the verge of finishing his junior year. He wrote this essay for his AP English Composition Course.
We owe our young people so much better. What do you think?
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