Let’s Talk About the Debate …

No. Let’s not.

One thing I don’t like to do in this space is to interject politics. Your political view is yours; mine is mine.

But I am going to talk about civility. That was what was missing in the 90 minutes or so the other night. That is what is missing in social media in general. That is what is missing in our nation.

I’m not quite sure when that simple concept — civility — went off the rails. In my day — and I’ll concede it was in the dark ages {before social media} — people could disagree without the vitriol. And a debate was, well, a debate not a street brawl.

Disagreement, even disagreement on a grand scale, is nothing new. It’s been going on since the days of  Cain and Abel. Generally speaking, however, disagreeing combatants were civil … at least in public.

I remember back in 1964, while a high school student in northern, Democrat-laden New Jersey, I had the unenviable task of supporting Barry Goldwater against Lyndon Johnson in the school debate. I “lost” the debate by a close margin, a task the real Goldwater campaign couldn’t match. Johnson collected all but 52 electoral collage votes and won by a clear 61%-39% popular margin. At my school, my team was on the short end of a 52%-48% vote.

That’s the purpose of debates. I vividly remember pointing out the positives of Goldwater’s candidacy. In retrospect, I might question some of those points. And I pointed out Johnson was just as vulnerable in his reckless spending and was riding on John F. Kennedy’s assassination coattails without personal accomplishments.

Ronald Reagan, who had not yet entered politics, gave his official endorsement to Goldwater shortly after my debate. I was in seventh heaven when Reagan emphasized the same issues I had raised such as the spread of Communism, taxes, and the national debt, and advocated limited government and aggressive tactics against the Soviet Union.

And then came social media. Speaking,writing, and tweeting under the cover of anonymity, personal views reached wider circles. Smart phone with cameras have led to thousands of hours of daily video out in social media space, most amateurish, often late to the party, and presented out of context.

Those factors, in my opinion, have led to the lack of civility. But it goes deeper. We’ve forgotten how to teach and demand respect. We’ve allowed a new generation to look for self gratification rather than the communal good. We’ve encouraged this behavior … and, unfortunately, have probably done it ourselves with disrespectful memes.

There are calls for sensitivity training to try to get people to understand the plight, culture, and/or history of other groups. While that is an admirable goal, it isn’t dialogue. Other groups don’t know my plight, culture or history — your plight, culture or history.

We have to do better. Look, we only go through life once. Isn’t it more joyful when we get along, even if it means agreeing to disagree. We don’t have to tear others down. We don’t have to migrate toward the negative. We have a choice to look some something good every day, even with our most ardent enemies.

There has always been, there are, and there probably will always be A type personalities. They are often referred to as bulls in the china shop. My suggestion is to lock the door to the china shop before the bull gets in.

Last word. THINK first!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default. — J.K. Rowling

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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1 Response to Let’s Talk About the Debate …

  1. Bruce says:

    Hi Joe
    I remember that debate in 1964. I was also on the debating team. I can’t remember now, but I think I was on the Johnson team. In any case, I didn’t like Goldwater or Johnson, so my heart wasn’t into the debate.

    You are right about civility. Interrupting others and just plain being rude seems to be the norm now. Demonizing someone’s opponent, and misstating facts, and flat out lying is also very prevalent. I’m kind of old fashioned in some ways, and I truly believe that honesty is the best policy. Virtues and values are important to me. I always say: Be true to yourself. Be the inner person you are within yourself, because this is the person you were intended to be. There was a guy who lived around 2000 years ago. His name was Jesus of Nazareth. He encouraged his followers to not become conformed to the ways of the world. I can see his wisdom, and why he said this.

    I didn’t watch the so called debate, but I caught the final 10 minutes. By the way, that wasn’t a debate. This was a train running off the rails, and became a train wreck.

    Bruce

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