One of the worst things about the increasingly partisan atmosphere we face in America today is the loss of civility and respect. People seem to think that if you don’t agree with them, you are condemning who they are. They think if you have a different solution to a problem, you don’t actually care about the problem.
When someone in the spotlight attempts to foster respect in the face of disagreement, the internet mob comes after them. And it’s not just trolls — respected figures are in on it too.
Case in point: Olympic bobsledder and silver-medalist Lauren Gibbs posted photos with Ivanka Trump and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders at the Winter Olympics. She noted in her post that “we don’t have to agree on everything to get along, be civil to each other and enjoy each other’s company.”
She probably had little experience in the world of political online assault, but she learned quickly. Gibbs was quickly slammed by legions of followers, who weren’t happy she would associate folks some labeled as bad as Hitler. She was told she was being used for propaganda and shamed for simply being friendly and respectful.
It wasn’t long before she got so sick of the bullying, she took the photos down. You can agree or disagree on whether that was the right move but having posted something controversial before online myself and being on the receiving end of hate, I have done the same thing. And Gibbs didn’t back down — she defended her choice to take the photos and insisted she requested the photos and can think for herself, thank you very much.
That’s just not how rational adults who believe in civil discourse behave. The presence of rational adults seems to have vanished in recent years. I’m not arguing for or against a specific gun law, but I’m smart enough to know that even Republicans who don’t want any new laws whatsoever don’t hold that opinion because they are evil. They truly believe that new gun laws isn’t the answer. Maybe they are wrong. I’m smart enough to to know that even Democrats who want a complete ban on all guns don’t hold that opinion because they hate America and the Constitution. They truly believe this could stop mass shootings.
Can we start there? Believing that most of us have the best of intentions that come from a place of authenticity. Ivanka Trump is not evil. Sarah Sanders is not Hitler’s right hand man. President Trump may be misguided but he’s not trying to destroy America.
Even on the very difficult issue of abortion, I have found a way to somewhat understand where pro-choice folks are coming from, though I firmly believe they are wrong. I don’t think they are evil, simply misguided. Name-calling and hatefulness on the issue certainly won’t get me anywhere on the issue. The same goes for pretty much everything.
I disagree with you, but I still respect you. That’s how you start a conversation.
Check out this video from Independent Women’s Voice for some perspective: