Is this the Society we Want?: Civility in the United States.

Is this the Society we Want?: Civility in the United States. July 8, 2018

If you are a conservative do you remember when President Obama referred to you as “clinging to their guns and religion”? Oh it gets worse. If you read the actually comment he talks about bitterness and anti-immigrant attitudes. Not his finest moment. And conservatives, rightly, made sure to point out the incivility of this comment. So conservatives know how it feels to have a president who makes dehumanizing comments about them.

Given that then, why in the world do they support a president who does what Obama does by a multiple of fifty? President Trump has insulted Native Americans, women, Hispanics, immigrants, and Great Britain. I am not even talking about specific individuals he has insulted, but merely the groups he has unfairly maligned with negative stereotypes. Yet what I hear from conservatives is often some version of “Well I wished he would not say that but he is still our guy.” If it was wrong when Obama did it, then it is wrong with Trump does it, and conservatives need to confront Trump with all the energy they wanted progressives to confront Obama after his insulting comments.

Do conservatives remember the hostile attitude of Obama towards Fox News? I remember that the Obama administration’s treatment of Fox News was so bad that even other media outlets begun to stick up for them. Of course presidential administrations push back on news stories. That is part of the political game. But the type of stigmatizing done by the Obama administration against Fox News went beyond the pale.

But now we get to the Trump administration. President Trump’s attempts to demonize and marginalize the news industry seem to know no bounds. His charge of “fake news” has become a rallying cry among his supporters. His actions truly go beyond merely pushing back on stories, but it may threaten the ability of news agencies to do their job and hold the feet of the administration to the fire. But beyond possibility of muting the news, these sorts of activities create a climate of polarization and hostility. That conservatives not only allow this type of atmosphere but even support Trump’s war on the media is short sighted in light of what occurred with Obama and Fox News.

Some conservatives have been asking for civility in light of much of the social atmosphere today. But how can they be taken seriously as long as they do not aggressively challenge what is arguably the most uncivil president we have ever had? Any calls for civility by conservatives that do not take into account the insults and dehumanizing actions of Trump are hollow and hypocritical.

Of course mistreating one’s political opponents is not limited to conservatives. Progressives sometimes forget that the tactics they use today can come back to bite them in the future. Remember when Harry Reid acted to get rid of the filibuster for all judicial appointments except for the Supreme Court? He probably had read about the inevitability of Democrat dominance and figured that the Republicans would never control both the Senate and the Presidency at the same time. Today we see how short-sighted he was, since he has opened the path for a possible Supreme Court that will be dominated by conservatives for the rest of my life.

So what sort of tactics progressives use today they may regret in the future. We have seen multiple attempts to shame members of the Trump administration, perhaps more clearly shown in the Red Hen’s refusal to serve Sarah Huckabee Sanders. We have had a congresswomen not only endorse this action but encourage other progressives to expand on this strategy. This shaming tactic used is really a harassing tactic. And many of them justified using it by arguing that the progressives are on the side of angels. They are trying to prevent children from being ripped from their parents right?

Is children being ripped from the arms of parents better or worse than children being ripped apart in their mother’s womb? Progressives had better use a little imagination and consider if they want a country where anyone who feels like they are on the side of the angels are allowed to harass others. I can already see abortion doctors, Planned Parenthood workers and pro-choice politicians having their meals interrupted, or yelled at while going to a movie or their homes picketed.

Some progressives have argued that civility is a tool of the oppressor or some other type of nonsense. If you do not want civility, then do not be surprised if others take you at your word and introduce you to what it is like to be harassed. The fact that progressives disagree with pro-lifers will not matter because pro-lifers themselves will see themselves saving children and will feel entitled to engage in similar types of harassing behaviors. Just like conservative Christians gave up their moral ground when they supported Trump, stupid arguments attempting to support the right of only progressives to harass others will result in those progressive giving up their moral ground when others use this tactic against them.

I am not advocating pro-lifers do this. I am pro-life and unashamedly so. But I also want to see some civility in our society returned and will oppose pro-lifers who use such a tactic. If we are going to have civility in our society, then we are going to have to take a longer range view of our political activism. We are going to have to put ourselves in the shoes of others. That which we do not want done to us, we must make sure is not done to others (I think the Bible has a saying like that). When conservatives have rightly felt that Obama treated them in an uncivil manner they should be more careful to make sure that their president does not multiply the mistake. When progressives consider a political strategy aimed at harassing individuals into compliance, then they should consider whether they want to be harassed as well. Unfortunately in both cases conservatives and progressives have been short-sighted in their political approach.

There has been talk about the incivility of our politics today. Progressives can fairly point to the rhetoric coming from the White House and the type of insults, such as snowflake, conservatives often use against them. Conservatives can fairly point to the attempts to stigmatize and harass them. But we do not tend to listen to those who are not part of our political tribe. If we really want to do something about civility in our society, our main focus should not be on those on the other team but rather it should be on those on our own team. We will only have a more civil society if we are willing to police those we agree with since those with whom we disagree are not likely to listen to us anyway.

I am neither a consistent conservative nor progressive. But my political activism has generally focused on dealing with Christianophobia, working towards racial healing and opposing Trump. It is that latter group that I addressed in my last post when I argued that Trump is not Hitler. I made the post because it is clearly the case that he is not Hitler, but also because I am tired of politics seeking to paint one’s enemies in the most evil light possible. Of course I see that tendency among Republicans and Democrats, but since I am not of either one of those tribes, there is little incentive for either to listen to me. But I have identified with the NeverTrumpers, and that is where my political identity is at this moment in time. I felt it was important for me to address an unsettling trend among some of them given that they are my “team,” and I want my team to contribute, and not detract, from a more civil society.

At the end of the day we all have to ask what sort of society do we want? Do we want this sort of incivility? I believe that some individuals enjoy the type of demonization and polarization in our society and care little for civility. I suspect that their care for civility will increase tremendously once they are on the receiving end of a president’s insults or attempts to harass them. Do we want to work out our issues by healthy communication or do we want those who are most aggressive in their mistreatment of others to rule the day?

If your answer is communication, then you have to work on people in your social and political sphere. If the only time you care about civility is when those you oppose violate it, then you really do not care about civility. What you care about is getting an upper hand in a political struggle, and you will have no moral weight when others have power and decide to be uncivil to you.

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