Over the past several weeks and months I have been frustrated about something but until now have not made the choice to speak out. Today I speak.
When I was a kid growing up I was always taught how important it is to voice your opinion and at the same time listen to those who have opinions that may be different from yours. I was taught that our opinions are important and they matter a lot if we are to have public dialogue. My Mom and Dad always taught me to be respectful of others opinions while standing up for our own. I'll bet that most of you around my age grew up with the same set of values and the same expectations. What I observed today concerns me. It concerns me because it seems as though the rules of the game, the values we are living by in our society, and a lot of other things have simply changed. Now please don't get me wrong, I'm not going to get nostalgic and suggest that we go back to times gone by. I am however, suggesting that we get back to a place of basic civility where we can voice opinions in our opinions will be heard and respected our and our opinions will be considered and listens to based on their merit not based on mean spirited personal attacks and tactics of bullying.
I think that the political landscape of today has created an environment of hostility, negative tension and anger. I see people who are listening to others and forming opinions based on fear, distrust, anger, and a whole host of very negative emotions. While it's true that these negative emotions can sway public opinion and can cause people to take strong positions. These are not the values of our great American society. And they are certainly not the values of the America that I grew up in and love.
Yesterday was a beautiful day here in New Hampshire - the sun was out, it was warm and it felt like the first real day of spring! My wife, Cathy, and I went for a walk with Maddy, our beagle and we enjoyed activities outside for most of the day. When I got home and checked my computer to see what was going on, the first thing I saw was a news clip of people yelling racial slurs at our president and homophobic slurs at one of our congressmen. After I spent a few minutes absorbing that negative news I checked my Facebook, only to learn that a friend, a good person, had to experience a very unhappy circumstance that was based on ignorance, fear, anger and rudeness. You see, she was out with her family and was confronted by a very rude person, or group of people who were uncomfortable with the fact that her daughter has a disability. Their ignorance and lack of understanding showed itself in the form of rudeness that, in my opinion, should not be tolerated!
So these events have brought me to the point where I needed to post a blog entry about civility. The previous paragraph should paint some pictures in your mind. If they haven't go back and read that paragraph again -- they will! Ask yourself as I did - "is this acceptable?" "Is this something I am willing watch and do nothing about?" I hope the answers that you came up with those questions are a resounding "NO" as they were for me. So here is my request - try to begin the dialogue, tomorrow- at your workplace, with your friends,with your family and anywhere you have a chance to talk about this important subject. Try opening the conversation by saying something like "hey, doesn't it seem like the conversations that take place between politicians and even between average citizens have just become unacceptably negative?" "Doesn't it seem like that is something we should work to change?" After some conversation around this perhaps you can take the next step and simply listen. Listen to your friends who have a different point of view. Try to express your point of view with respect and objectivity versus hostility, anger, and disrespect. I know that what you will feel as a result will be much more positive and perhaps even make you feel more empowered than simply venting your frustrations.
I have learned well how to "Live my Passions" over the past several years of my life, and now I write about the process. I have come to know that to live a life of passion means to find ones own roads to happiness, kindness and compassion and all good things. I simply do not believe anyone can find their true passions by traveling down roads of anger, hostility, ignorance, fear and a host of other negative emotions. Passion is a thing of love, acceptance, and all that is good. It is a place of celebrating the differences between people and learning from those differences.
In closing, please try to celebrate differences, and know that we all have our life experiences that shape our reality and our views. If we are to be heard, we need to also listen. If we are to be respected, we need to respect. Remember the golden rule? I think it can really help us these days - "treat others as we wish others to treat us."
Until next time......