Civility and discourse
Each of us knows, works with, maybe even loves people who hold a different political view than we ourselves hold. Sadly, it has become harder and harder in this country to find people of different viewpoints who are willing, or able, to have an actual discussion about the division in American politics. Instead of a discussion everything seems to be a rage-filled monologue.
The sides seem to have drifted further apart, the proverbial aisle getting across. This divide is driven, at least in part, by factors that have arisen relatively recently. The scariest being the profit that can be made on hate, incivility, and invective.
It used to be that if I was liberal and you were conservative maybe we read a different newspaper, the Washington Post or the Washington Times, the Detroit News or the Free Press, whatever. While the editorial boards of these opposing papers would endorse different candidates and have columnists of different parties and views, basically the news was the news.
Now, people watch different channels, listen to different talk radio, get their news from different internet sources, and in the process get totally different news. On top of that, what was once the purview of the editorial page, and avoidable, is now a nearly unavoidable 24-hour-a-day circus. And this circus drives ratings, and those ratings drive money. That is the politics of today.
The views of Murdoch’s Fox News are not just driven by a far-right political agenda, but also the greater agenda of profit. Sadly, intelligent discourse and objectivity in the middle don’t drive profit, you have to go hard to the fringes to create passion and fervor. These groups manipulate the foundation of our democracy for personal profit.
This type of media works to widen gaps and to emphasize the importance of certain values and deemphasize and demean others. Not unlike the way the party that controls both our state and federal governments demeans, even demonizes, many of the values for which the Labor movement stands.
In response we must find ways to have civil discourse, make politics a marketplace of ideas, and not a marketplace of fear and loathing. To engage in civility and reason, one will have to swim upstream against cable news, Facebook and Twitter, but for democracy to thrive its citizens must realize a common ground and be able to engage in civil discourse.
It comes down to the old cliché that I might disagree with everything a person says, but, I believe completely in their right to say it—unlike our new President who wants to change the libel laws so that you can’t say it. (Okay, that might be a touch uncivil of me but I’m tryin’ here.)
We have to keep in mind that a person’s political views are not the totality of that person. In many cases they work, worship, or live where you do.
There is common ground on which to stand, and that is where we must start. In the end it is about striving for a better America.
We in Labor must continue to fight the good fight and continue to beat the drum for a society based on legal and economic equality for everyone. What other choice do we have?