Civil Thanks, JP

First of all, JP, I need to acknowledge and thank you for routinely posting kind words for my posts. Your thoughts and ideas are inspiring and stimulating to me, and I appreciate what you say, too. I would hope, at least, that some civility pervades this blog dialogue.

The nature of civility is the nature of this post as well.

Politics is not sports. The goal is not simply to have your team win. Our government exists, we are told by the consent of the governed, for the purpose of protecting the rights of the people. The goal, therefore, of politics is how to make the people in general win. The people win when the consequences of any power bigger than them are mitigated, and they are free to pursue their dreams, to realize their aspirations and potential. Sometimes this problem is the government, sometimes it’s corporate trouble, foreign and domestic badness, or sometimes it’s specific “bad guys.”

The times we have witnessed the best civility are when we have come together against known problems. After 9-11, at least briefly; fighting Hitler, these are the definitive examples. What this means for us is not that we need to see more grand offenses against America, far from it. Nor do we need to label things (taxes, for the right, or corporate greed for the left) in an effort to rally our own party. When the majority – a polity – of people, and common sense acknowledge and agree that something is worth a policy, then politics is the vehicle to make the appropriate change. What we have seen lately is that factions are trying to persuade the world of a narrow cause. Granted, wisdom is often a lonely banner among a sea of popular misguidedness.

But there is a difference between beating a dead horse and standing up for a cause that is truly wise. Never taxing anyone is for bozos. Imagining that charity alone will rescue all victims of poverty and disaster is folly. We are not going to starve the government to death, nor should we. Nor should we assume that corporations exist only to tread on the average person. The profit motive drives our economy, and a good corporate image is essential to success as much as revenue. If we have learned anything, it is that making blanket statements in running our country is too simple. There are a lot of people in the world, and they each have their own idea on how to beat “the system.” We need to put our heads together, and admit that many ideas, sharing and listening is the way to go here. 

Politics is not ridicule either. Civility implies a genuine respect of the other guy. He might actually be right, and I might actually be wrong. Obama gets this, but he has paid a price for it in vitriol from the ones who still carry that burden of partisanship. Nobody is so correct that their only purpose is to defeat the other guy. If you can’t defend your position in public, you should not be a public servant. One real sign of intelligence is the ability to understand complex situations. And the reverse is true as well; simple solutions are only good in simple situations.

JP, you are at your best when you justify and defend your ideas. Rick, Michele, Sarah, Ron, you are at anyone’s worst when you slander anyone who might disagree with you, act like you want to destroy our elected officials, or when you show your ignorance with curt lines. The Declaration of Independence – a pretty radical document – was a list of actual, documented grievances, arrived at after months, even years of deliberation. It was not any sort of good-old-boy network, or jingoistic slogans. Sure, some of the protests that led up to that point were cheap and inflammatory; tarring and feathering and some of the pamphlets published come to mind. And history has recorded some nasty confrontations in our hallowed halls of government. George III was not a good listener. Among which crowd do you want to be seen and remembered?

There are rules that govern our debates, and manners that guide all of our actions. Don’t we want to understand the other guys’ point of view? Can’t that help us manage the situation? These are not revolutionary times, though they may be times of change. I thank you for your consideration.

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About Jim

I've been leading outdoor environmental education in the YMCA since the 1970s. I love teaching nature, history, current events, being a dad, fixing stuff, groups, and general thinking.
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