Civility: A Manifesto!

In South East Alabama we know that in “hunting season,” we can go and shoot the deer… It’s too bad that during “political” season, we can’t shoot the politicians… Not so fast, commentators and folks that post excessive angry political rants on Facebook…. Looking at you too…

All kidding aside, this season really gets to me sometimes… people of all sorts seem to see it as an opportunity to dismiss civility with reckless abandon. My usual response is to clam up, silently do my own reading, vote, and avoid political discussions at all costs (sometimes I succeed at that, and sometimes not)… At least once a political season I post a general, “Please remember that we are voting on the person who espouses government policies that we believe (to the best of our knowledge) will work for the betterment of the people that live here,” not whether or not a person is the antichrist. I guess that’s what this is… a call to civility and a reminder of what we are really supposed to be doing in “voting” season…

We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject. For both have labored in the search for truth and both have helped in the finding of it. – St. Thomas Aquinas

That’s it down to the letter. Let’s remember we are all trying to get to the same result and also remember that it may actually be possible to get to the same result using different methods, just as you can take many routes to get to the same location. I understand that it isn’t always easy, especially when we are discussing things that affect us personally, policies that affect body autonomy, our families, safety, our financial well-being, etc.

It saddens me that I can only have a REAL discussion of politics in a manner that doesn’t make me feel emotionally unsafe with a handful of people. I can count them on one hand… there might actually be others, but I’ll bet that they are silent for the same reasons I am… But I love ideas! I’m an INTP, I collect them like my aunt collected those annoying beanie babies that are now sitting in a dusty box in her attic! I even like the ideas I don’t like! I like knowing them just to know those ideas exist and why.

Ugh… I’m rambling… I guess I’m thinking “out loud” about this because I am spending time with my Mom and Bro this weekend. The experiences I have in conversations with them are the experiences I wish I had with other people. We manage to be able to talk about the most difficult things (gender, religion, sexuality, politics, culture, environmentalism, fatness, vegans vs carnivores, etc.), at times completely disagree, but leave the conversation feeling amazing and supported by the other, and even more emotionally safe with them as a result… TRUE STORY!

Not only is this totally possible, but super easy! Talk about ideas, talk till you are blue in the face, but leave out the parts where you dehumanize, belittle, call names, invalidate feelings or experiences or observations of others, etc. If things are “touchy,” leave out the sarcasm, it just doesn’t help. Be open to learning about things with which you might not agree, just for the sake of learning and try to understand why the other sees it the way they do. Not only are you learning for learnings sake, you are learning more about who the other is as a person.

Anywho… I could keep going and going… but I think, having contemplated this, I am going to try to create for myself a new habit. I’m going to start evaluating things I say during difficult discussions and in online writings. I will consciously ask myself if what I am saying focuses on an idea, rather than dehumanize, belittle, call names, invalidate feelings or experiences or observations of the person to whom I am responding… I sincerely hope that others will make an effort with me to do this as well.

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