Continuing decay of civility is troubling


It has been said that when couples view each other with contempt, their relationship is likely to fail. In the past, Americans knew how to disagree on political issues without viewing each other with contempt.

Sadly, that is no longer true in too many cases. And some partisan news outlets, which sometimes seem to be overly motivated by a quest for ratings and clicks, often fan the flames of that contempt and make those flames burn even hotter.

In an era of increased division in America, the worst chapter might have been written last week. First, a far-right activist with a lengthy criminal record allegedly sent pipe bombs to several Democratic Party leaders and supporters of the party, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., businessman George Soros and actor Robert De Niro.

As if that was not bad enough, a man is accused of walking into a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday and murdering 11 members of the congregation before he was arrested. Before the shooting, he had made several anti-Semitic posts on social media and even criticized President Donald Trump for being surrounded by too many Jewish people (Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, is a convert to Judaism) and saying in another post, “There is no #MAGA as long as there is a [anti-Jewish slur] infestation.”

Before that, in June 2017, a left-wing activist opened fire at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, where two dozen Republican members of Congress were practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., was one of six people shot in the incident and one of two who suffered critical injuries.

While these are arguably the worst examples of the growing divide in America, they reflect a rift that has greatly expanded.

It has become too common for people to negatively stereotype those who do not share their political views. Mitt Romney infamously said during the 2012 presidential campaign that 47 percent of the electorate would vote for Obama because they receive government assistance. Four years later, Hillary Clinton described half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables” who were racist, homophobic, xenophobic and Islamophobic.

Worse yet, people are ending friendships — and even marriages — simply because they disagree about politics. Perhaps the strongest example of that was when Harper’s Bazaar published an opinion piece in August 2017 titled, “If You Are Married to a Trump Supporter, Divorce Them.”

So how do we fix this growing divide? The first place to start is by learning how to respect each other again. We need to judge people not by their political views or by whom they vote for, but as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, by the content of their character.

The second thing we need to do is quit focusing on what we disagree about and start looking for common ground. Most of us are not that different from each other. We work hard, we love our families and friends — and at the end of the day, we want what is best for America, regardless whether we agree on what that is or not.

Mutual respect and finding common ground — now that sounds like a great idea.