Manners and Political Life: Divisiveness is the Politician's Tool of Choice


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I’ve provided a link to “Manners and Political Life” by Dr. George Friedman.

If you don’t want to read it all, then just scroll down and read the part under the heading “Authenticity.”

As you read it, think of examples of politicians and other public figures who foment animosity and who seem to see the “other side” not as well intended opponents but as enemies.

Be honest with yourself: think of some both from the other side and from your own side. Can you?

Then be even more honest with yourself: Do you respect those who disagree with you? Can you discuss political issues without becoming angry and eventually slinging insults? Even if someone else does it to you, do you refrain from responding in kind?

I watch Facebook discussions frequently, and I must say that it isn’t only some of our politicians who create division and discord. Many of our fellow average citizens engage in hostility toward the other side–and reward politicians who do the same.

Therein lies our greatest challenge as a nation.

Democrats aren’t our greatest challenge. Republicans aren’t our greatest challenge.

Donald Trump isn’t our greatest challenge. Hillary Clinton isn’t our greatest challenge.

​The truth is that all four of these thrive on hostility, but they aren’t thriving on their own hostility. They are thriving on the anger and hostility of an electorate that uses the ballot box to reward them for their intransigence. In a sense, the political discourse among our citizens–not our politicians–is the most fundamental problem.

We pride ourselves less on coming together to forge solutions and more on on our ability simply to prevent the other side from accomplishing anything. We spend less time trying to improve our own side and more time trying to show that we’re not as bad as the other side.

Republicans cannot complain that Democrats call them “ignorant” when so many Republicans call Democrats “un-American.” Democrats cannot complain that so many Republicans call them “baby killers” when so many Democrats blanketly label all Republicans “racist.”

If you want to know which side is at fault, look at your own. If you want to see a person who is at fault–or at least could do better–then look in a mirror.

The next time you find yourself disagreeing with someone, try to understand what the other person is really saying. Do this without simultaneously trying to decide how to respond. The most important thing, after all, isn’t your response; it’s your listening.

When you do finally respond, discuss issues and facts, not each other. The issues are important, and solutions are desired. Your opinion of someone’s character is neither important nor desired.

The point isn’t for you to win an argument against an enemy, which, even if it occurred, would serve no purpose other than your own vanity.

​If you really want to win an argument though, I assure you that you’re more likely to do so when you and the other party respect each other than when you do not.

​At the end of the day, if disagreement persists, then guess what: That’s okay. This is America, where the right to disagree is Constitutional. Learn from the exchange, and move forward with dignity. Even though you disagree with each other, you may have helped to create the trust and space necessary for solutions to eventually take hold.

Read George Friedman’s Full Column Here


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