A congressman is fighting for his life in a Washington DC hospital. He and other Republican members of congress were attacked while they practiced for a baseball game. Their attacker did not know them, had never met them, yet had concluded they needed to die. The shooter appointed himself judge, jury and executioner, imposing a death sentence on them for the crime of being conservative.
How did it come to this?
Several thoughts come to mind-
1- Politics has become too important. When people blame all of their problems on government or look to government to provide all of the answers to their problems, those who oppose their views can be easily demonized. This is true on both sides. When we assign evil motives to our opponents we provide potential justification to harsh actions against them. Yoda said it well, “Anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
2- Human life has lost its value. There was a time when people were valued because they were people. People were defined first and foremost by their humanity. Created in the image of God, all people deserved to be treated with dignity and respect. This was why our founding fathers embedded a prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment into our constitution. Even the worst people were thought to be deserving of some degree of dignity.
This is no longer true. We see people being beaten, bullied and attacked for what they believe. Our rhetoric has lost any semblance of dignity and respect. This week I saw a post in which someone called Jeff Sessions a “F-ing D-bag” (abbreviated for politeness.) The attorney general of the United States deserves more respect. He has served his state and the nation for 35 years. While he has been wrong at times (on many occasions I am sure) being wrong does not make you a D-bag. When we reduce people to epithets, when we ignore the good that is in them, we devalue all humanity.
3- No one listens anymore. Everywhere I look, from the debates in congress to the comments on Facebook posts, I see put downs, insults and personal attacks. Opposing views are mocked and dismissed out of hand. No one seems interested in the truth coming out as much as they are in winning an argument. The resultant “us vs. them” posturing is damaging to our culture. It breeds anger and contempt for others.
It does not have to be this way. We can be better, we can work to focus on the good intentions of others, on their positive contributions and on common goals.
We need to assume the best in others. Both political parties want a better America for all Americans, a better healthcare system, safety for our citizens, education for our children and a thriving economy. We would all do well to remember these shared goals. We may disagree with others on how to achieve them but we need to stop assigning evil motives to those who disagree with us.
We need to remember that people are more important than politics.
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