As we descend further into the rabbit hole this US election year, I find myself more and more disappointed in the candidates vying for the presidency. This seems to be the year of the juvenile, with every candidate apparently convinced that the American people have so embraced the psychosis of perpetual adolescence that the only way to earn votes is to lower the bar accordingly.
The only thing I find more disturbing than this, is the way the most vocal in our nation likewise seem to have assimilated a jaberwokian approach to public discourse. They spend great amounts of time saying absolute nonsense of which the only thing I can generally make out is that something is dying or will die if they do not get their way immediately. This use of hyperbole – if that indeed is even the intent – defeats its purpose as a tool for rhetoric intended to highlight extremes, precisely because its constant utilization hollows out its effectiveness.
I am afraid however that the actual reason many rely on it so heavily is that their approach to language really is that of an adolescent. Perhaps they really cannot see the world past the four walls of their bedroom except through the lens of their media devices. Such insulation is unhealthy at any age but when children become adults who still think and act like insulated children, every day is an un-birthday.
All of which begs the perennial question, how should Followers of the Way of the Cross interact with a world gone so mad that reason and civility seem to be all but lost?
For starters, we must stop looking to Men (or Women) to fix the problems. They cannot and they will not. Human government is full of fanciful creatures (politicians) with no hold whatsoever on reality. Do not entrust yourself to their care.
Second, we must strive to do our part to return society to a place of civil discourse. For too long we have accepted false political dichotomies, concepts that once consumed act like mushrooms making us to big or too small to access the door we need to get through. We must reject these false solutions and demand a return to a national conversation.
This second issue has preoccupied my thoughts for several weeks now. Uncivil discourse most often arises out of the bastardization of words and their redefinition so as to attach negative connotations to them. Two fantastic examples of this are the hot topic issues of marriage and climate change. People who challenge the Religious Establishment’s definition of marriage are often labeled as “anti-family”. Likewise, those who challenge the Scientific Establishment’s assertions regarding climate change are often labeled as “anti-science”. This process of vilification is generally the work of a few individuals who have an agenda which they want others to rally behind. The average person is completely unaware that the process of vilification ever even occurred.
Civil discourse requires that we begin with the intention to seek peace and make peace by understanding rather than vilifying those with whom we seem to disagree. This will only happen when we acknowledge that those with whom we seem to disagree have legitimate concerns and most likely (though not always) positive motivations for their positions on a matter. We need to stop oversimplifying and start communicating. To look for the positive, to be for something and to seek to understand what others are for as well.
No man is an island, whatever detracts from one detracts from us all. We will disagree and that’s both good and healthy, but every choice has consequences that affect everyone else. We are in this together and we need to start acting like it…
Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and He will grant you His blessing. For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it…” (1Peter 3:8-11, NLT)