Sunday, July 23, 2017

What Ever Happened to Civili Discourse

I am getting so numb to the rhetoric on all the news networks that I have forgotten the civility of those Obama years that Trump supporters and many republicans point to as the evil Obama era.  He was called a liar, illegitimate, and far worse, but remained a gentleman.  The other night, MSNBC posted a video of the then new commander in chief in 2010 taking questions from the audience. Below is an excerpt.

Obama reacts with polite banter to Wall Street guy Anthony Scaramucci (Trump's new white house communications director), who is critical of Obama's handling of the aftermath of the burst housing bubble.  There is no name calling.  Obama sates the facts (which are verifiable) in support of his reasoning to tax the wealthy at the same rate as their low-paid secretaries. Scaramucci is ashamed by the facts.

This is how issues should be debated.  I would feel far more comfortable with Trump's presidency if he gave an open town hall meeting (not a rally aimed at his diehard supporters) were he responds to critics with reasoned answers.  Instead, he rants about crowd size, inflates his accomplishments by counter-factually huge amounts, and makes disparaging remarks about anyone who disagrees with his warped view of reality.  This in turn releases a frenzied response from liberals who are attacked by conservatives in an endless and escalating cycle.  This must stop.

Let's come together as Americans who love the freedoms and institutions that make this country great and debate the issues with civility, calling upon facts to make measured arguments.  Let's quote legitimate sources rather than ideological echo chambers.  Let's respect each other's views without dismissing our ideological opposites.  We can disagree and debate, but let's not call each other names or brand members of a group by their most extreme members.

I challenge all of us to start an honest and sincere grass roots movement of civil discourse where everyone can voice his or her own opinion, not to convince others, but to bring clarity to the motivations of those with whom we disagree.  Hell with our leaders; let's resolve our differences at the local level, where it matters most, and let it percolate upward to those who represent us.

I strongly urge newspapers and other media to play a more active role in mediated debate.  Encourage pairs of writers or bloggers with opposing views to weigh in on the same issue, perhaps even encouraging a back-and-forth exchange, calling upon fact checkers to enforce honesty.  If we're lucky, perhaps civil discourse will once again become the norm.   We can accomplish so much more if we work together and use reality, peppered with reasoned opinion, as the the basis for making decisions.