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CAN WE BE DIFFERENT AND STILL BE CIVIL? I DISAGREE
For the first third or so of my life, the news was delivered on television each night by a man named Walter Cronkite. This veteran reporter was relatively old when I was a kid, but he had been the most recognized and respected voice delivering the news to U.S. citizens for many years. Every night, he would report the news, stating the facts and ending his segments with his famous tagline “and that’s the way it is.” This doesn’t mean he never shared his own opinion. On air, after reporting on the bloodshed of the Vietnam War, Cronkite urged the United States to get out of Vietnam and negotiate as “an honorable people.” When he made this statement, he did so in a civil manner, without ranting or hurling insults at those who would disagree with him. The portion of the program where he expressed his opinions was separate from the official news portion. When you look back at the respectful way those opinions were presented and compare with where we are today, seeing someone being civil and respectful on the news seems almost miraculous. Every day, it seems to me that the 24-hour news cycle brings audiences nothing but rage and heavily biased vitriol. I’ve seen it on the right-leaning media, where correspondents are firing off incendiary statements full of name-calling, designed to be in clear lockstep with the current administration. But I’ve also seen it on left-leaning channels, where some people claim the world is so terrible that the
only choice is anarchy. Every report comes with an emotional component of finger-pointing, where someone must be blamed. It sometimes seems that there is no one just presenting the facts anymore and letting the listeners form their own opinions. Of course, there’s a reason why stories have a slant when they are reported by the news. They’re meant to push our buttons. Simple facts do not get ratings. When people get all riled up, ratings go up — and that’s good for business. The problem is that these emotions build, and the way we react to things today is so volatile. And then, of course, as if that was not bad enough, you have the dark corners of the web, where conspiracy theories and hateful rhetoric as well as racism and antisemitism are the norm. The shootings in Pittsburgh back in October are an especially harsh and painful reminder of what happens when someone listens with fervor to all the chatter and decides to act on his hate. Here’s my question: When did every disagreement become grounds for war? I’ve seen someone call another person a Nazi just because that person was pro-life and then another person call someone a Nazi for being pro-choice! I couldn’t believe my ears. Nazis were horrible individuals who wanted to eradicate anyone who wasn’t just like them.
Your neighbor isn’t a Nazi just because he or she has a different political opinion than you.
I will say that there are some upsides to everyone being so captivated by the current political climate. People are participating in democracy again. They’re going out to the polls, and young people are running for office and bringing new ideas to an old system. This is great because the Founding Fathers built our government on the idea that the people should play an active role in choosing their leadership — but there has to be a way that we can do this without tearing each other apart. It’s hard to be civil when something strikes an emotional chord. We want to fight for what we believe in. And yes, there are some things worth fighting for. The American Civil War was fought largely because the southern states didn’t want to end slavery. The United States entered World War II to fight actual Nazis allied with a Japanese dictatorship who together wanted to spread their cancerous evil throughout the world. In these instances, real human life and suffering was at stake. There was a clear right and wrong, good and evil. Participating in our wonderful democracy should not feel like you are fighting Nazis and actual dictators, because as much as you may want to believe someone is emulating a Nazi or
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