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Can we discuss politics civilly anymore?

The other day, I got a form email from a real estate agent declaring his position on a current issue. The issue and his position aren’t important — or wouldn’t have been in another time. Back then, I could have decided that his position wouldn’t affect whether or not I’d use his services. Back then, I could listen respectfully and agree to disagree.

Is it possible to do that anymore? Is it possible to live in a nation where politics wouldn’t be tinged with hatred and be something real estate agents (and writers) feel compelled to discuss?

Before we start the finger-pointing, I agree that the current crisis didn’t start with President Trump. There have been those on the left who played a role in widening the social chasms that existed from the beginning of our country. But good leaders work to close those gaps, bring people together, and heal our wounds. Leaders of both parties have. President Trump has not, and he has made things worse. Just scroll through his Twitter feed and see for yourself.

We can continue the finger-pointing and defensiveness, but we must stop and ask some important questions: Can we discuss politics civilly anymore? Or is it too late?

Let’s answer this by agreeing to a few truths.

  • You can’t force unity. You certainly can’t force it by ignoring injustice.
  • You can’t demand patriotism. If you want to see what a society is like with forced patriotism and flag idolatry, look at North Korea.
  • You can’t insist on loyalty, especially when you have no intention of giving it in return. Leaders serve the people, not the other way around.
  • You can’t silence people. The truth doesn’t go away if you ignore it or call it a lie. Tyrants have tried this for centuries, and it has never worked for long.
  • You can’t defend incivility and cruelty. It doesn’t matter whether the perpetrator is on your side or the other. What’s wrong is wrong.
  • You can’t deflect the faults of your side by pointing fingers at the other. Take responsibility and hold people on your side accountable.

The only way we can have a civil discussion about politics is if we agree on a single reality. Let’s stop being manipulated by those with Photoshop and wicked imaginations. We must also agree that there is one standard of conduct that applies to all people. If private email servers are bad for Democrats, they are bad for Republicans.

More importantly, let’s recognize the humanity in each other. Hurricane victims in Puerto Rico are just as worthy of help as those in Texas and Florida. African Americans should not be considered ungrateful for demanding the same civil rights as whites. If we want to show true respect to our flag and anthem, we must first respect each other.

The alternative is to allow the discord and demonization to metastasize until we can only handle political conflict through violence. Too many places throughout history have. We have come to the point where we must either be honest about our situation and do something about it or continue plummeting towards disaster.

We still have that choice, but we’re running out of time. We need to bring honesty, accountability, civility, and humanity back to politics before it destroys us and the country that we love.


Also published on Medium.