The tone of discourse, political and otherwise has become increasingly crude and belligerent. I am right, and you are an idiot! We struggle to survive these every day brutal exchanges as adults. How do we protect children and train our young people to listen with an open heart and mind, evaluate critically what they hear, and put themselves in someone else’s, perhaps less comfortable, shoes.
I don’t generally post political thoughts on my FB page, I keep it more a means of staying in touch with family, friends far away, and former students who are no longer in our school system. However I broke that rule in our current local election. It is not even a full blown election. It is a primary . So both candidates are in the same party, but you wouldn’t think it to hear the bombs being thrown. The office in question is Commonwealth’s Attorney. This is a real job with serious consequences for our district. (Not going to use names here..)
The current D.A. has worked with me and other educators to help young people She has come up with creative and compassionate ways to address criminal charges against young people who have made mistakes and who have responded to the chance to rehabilitate. The police force in our county has gang prevention programs, and a very active and effective community outreach program. I am watching a lot of what works in our county be thrown under a political bus,
So, I am trying to stay with my original orientation on not writing about politics. What this blog is about is actually something else, basic human communication with dignity and respect. I had to give some background first as to why my feelings are so strong. The D.A. did not vote in favor of a bill our governor was promoting on the house floor, and now I see this as political payback time. Not everyone would agree, but I find it hard to see why party regulars would jump ship on a well-liked and effective incumbent, against whom no objections were previously voiced, after she failed to tow the party line on the governor’s bill. Fortunately, another prominent democratic representative, well known in our district, has written a letter on behalf of the D.A. Even her opponent in a previous election has come out in favor of her. There are multiple postings on FB about this election. One of them had a very negative attack on my candidate under a release/political ad. So, I took the plunge and responded. I simply spoke of the positive things I have seen her do. I did not address in any negative way her opponent. Nevertheless, I was bracing myself for hate mail, which is what usually follows FB political posts, and this election has become very contentious. . I was even expecting to be cursed out. Instead, I received a reply from someone who started with “I don’t walk in your shoes,but..” She presented her views and her own experiences in a reasonable way. She hasn’t changed my mind, but I welcomed the response. We exchanged a few more thoughts with one another, neither of us budging, each becoming more sure that we were supporting the correct person, but we agreed on certain policy directions, maybe just not who would best take us there. The exchange was civil, even friendly
Today is Sunday and after church I stopped along Columbia Pike to go to the outdoor farmer’s market. It was my first time there. I wandered about to see what was available. I bought a baguette, and next to that table, was a table for my candidate’s opponent. I walked by glancing at the literature. Most of what I have received by mail from her has been distorted and hostile. These brochures looked a little less hostile from the outer flap. As I looked, the woman behind the table began to talk to me. She said she was a defense attorney and then she started saying a lot of the things that my newly found FB correspondent had said. Suddenly she looked at me, and said my name. “Wait, how do you know who I am?” “Because I recognize your profile picture, and these are some of the same things we talked about….” Wow!” I was meeting my new found FB exchange partner in person, purely by chance. And, she was as decent in person as she was online. We shared a lot of values, but saw this election completely differently, I walked away from our conversation, no less committed to my candidate, but bolstered by the fact that it is still possible to share goals and have a civil disagreement about how to get there, in which both parties learn something
I still cannot wrap my head around someone who has never been a prosecutor, or tried a case in our county’s courts herself, becoming the D.A. and supervising others doing a job she has never done, especially when the current person does it so well. That said, I enjoyed my farmer’s market meeting, and left if feeling hopeful. Tone is key to conveying content.