Americans are Better Than This: The Struggle for Political Civility
America has big problems peeps. We should stop responding to them like children.
Can we grow up? Can we stop facing off and start facing the issues that are dividing us with grace and meaningful dialogue? Facebook memes do not represent carefully thought out positions and are often disseminated by fringe groups manipulating the populace. Is that something we want to buy into?
Wouldn’t it be more productive to start speaking to one another, face to face, at the lunch counter, the dinner table, or from the front porch? How about treating one another like human beings and fellow citizens, rather than like enemy combatants?
While we are at it, do we need to examine our ideas of freedom? If we believe that an athlete kneeling during the national anthem is a display of disrespect, but young men wearing swatiskas and side arms and waving battle flags marching in the streets of an American city is an acceptable form of protest, who and what are we defending?
The patriotic theatrics and petulant tweets of our commander in chief aren’t helping. It’s not the President’s job to inflame tensions between progressives and conservatives, but to promote unity and civil discourse and set a good example for all of us. More conservatives need to call him out on this and convince him it is politically expedient for him to behave better, rather than being apologists for his tantrums and bullying and making personal enemies of anyone who disagrees with him. Still, I don’t expect him to stop tweeting his undignified and uninformed responses anytime soon. But they certainly do not deserve to be emulated by reasonable people. Americans are better than this.
I’m afraid that as long as Americans are comfortable judging WHAT Colin Kapernick and his supporters do without being willing to examine WHY they are doing it, we will continue to struggle with the issues of white privilege and inequality that were the catalyst for his actions.
It doesn’t really take much emotional intelligence or empathy for white Americans to recognize that our minority neighbors might be having a very different American experience than our own, and to make accommodation for it. To disallow dissent is to disregard our democratic ideals and constitutional protections. Colin Kapernick staged his demonstration from a position of humility, on his knee, and yet his humble exercise of his right to freedom of expression has been met with childish and ugly displays of burning effigies, cyber bullying and character debasement. There is no compassion or creative thinking in such responses, only hyperbolic emotional reaction, which is counter productive and immature.
It wasn’t that many decades ago that athletes living behind the iron curtain would risk their lives to defect to the U.S. in order to find the freedom of expression that is the right of every American. And now the movement in this country seems to be moving towards stifling the voices of our own athletes legitimate protests. How did we get here?
After the Charlottesville march and violence, I did not see condemnations of the nazi sympathizers involved from conservatives all over social media the way I am seeing them now. If that is not a indication that something has gone awry, I don’t know what is.
The goal of the white supremacist movement is to incite a race war. They are no doubt delighted by this latest spectacle of how divided Americans are, as if we are engaged in a game of rope pull rather than in the throes of trying to maintain a civil democratic society. If we continue to take sides, dig in our heels, and pull apart, what will the outcome be?
The ropes are fraying. Every new episode of reactionary partisanship adds a new strain. If they break, what will we use to pull ourselves up from the mess we have made?
©2017 by Ilona Elliott