We have lost the ability to disagree with one another.
This is not a new thing, but it seems to be on the rise. I thought incivility of political discourse might have peaked with the last presidential election, but the last week has proven me wrong. The discussion (if one can call it that) about gun control has been hateful, demeaning and devoid of listening. The ability to see goodness and reasonableness in those who don’t take our side seems to have vanished from our society.
Marco Rubio seems to be a decent man. He was caring and gracious enough to attend the Townhall meeting attended by those directly affected by the Parkland school shooting. His presence was not appreciated by many of those in attendance. One student told Senator Rubio that looking at him was like looking at the shooter, that looking at Rubio was like “looking down the barrel of an AR-15.”
Dana Loesch, a spokeswoman for the NRA, was booed at the townhall when she told a story of a young rape victim who believes that she might have saved herself if she had been able to carry a weapon. She was jeered and mocked from the audience.
Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, showed a similar level of incivility the next day in his speech to CPAC, the conservative political action conference. He said, ” These elites don't care—not one wit—about America's schoolchildren.”
Dana Loesch, the aforementioned victim of audience intolerance, was not above slandering others either. At the CPAC conference she said, “Many in legacy media love mass shootings.”
It seems that both sides of the gun control debate are refusing to believe the best in the other side. While there are disingenuous and dishonest people, while there are some politicians who intentionally mislead and who seek personal gain, the overwhelming majority of Americans have many things on which they can agree.
No one wants innocent people to die.
No one wants lethal weapons in the hands of mentally ill individuals prone to violence.
Everyone wants to be safe and wants their children to be safe.
If we all agree on these points there is no reason for us to hate and demean one another. Thinking someone is wrong does not require us to believe they are bad. Bad ideas can be associated with good and noble intentions. We need to believe the best in one another.
We have common goals, even when we disagree on how to best achieve those goals. If we cannot respect one another and listen to one another the chance of achieving these goals decreases.