‘My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style’. Dr. Maya Angelo
Have you noticed our language seems to be getting uglier? Is this just me, am just getting more sensitive in my advanced age. It seems within all the mediums of communications we regularly use, our social interactions, especially where we enjoy anonymity our language and the way in which we speak to one another has a greater level of toxicity than ever before.
The greater the anonymity the more toxic the language, right from the start. Where once we had at least the veneer of civility, now we are all in with the ugly; cannonballing into the pond, name-calling and nastiness, no regard for the human on the other side of the screen. It is damned near a contest to determine who can be the most offensive within a single exchange, who can pull the bully mantle across their shoulders and strut their obnoxious faster.
I have to ask, what got us to this point? How did we fall so far in our ability to communicate? Did we simply decided to shed our entire veneer of civility and pick up where we left off in grade school? Many of us shake our heads in dismay at the bullying in public schools across the nation; we are concerned our children are damaged by the name-calling and violence in the halls and playgrounds. We should be concerned, but let me ask you; just where in the hell do you think they learn this crappy behavior? Our children don’t pull this out of the air; they do not learn it from television, video games or on the radio! No, they learn it from you and I, they watch us acting like ill-mannered five-year-olds and think, what is good for my father / mother is good enough for me.
Off they go, to pull the hair, trip the nerd or otherwise make life miserable for someone weaker or different from them.
Let us take a quick look at some of the more polite terms we call each other in some of the political discussions I have been in recently, shall we?
Those are just a few after a quick glance through my own page. Nice right?
Don’t misunderstand, I am passionate about the things I believe in and even enjoy a good debate. I find many of the positions of the other side abhorrent, even morally reprehensible. I find many of the people who support them to be equally offensive, their words are a sometime deafening clamor to me. Despite my personal feelings though, I find the name calling even more offensive than the positional differences. I would rather have a civil debate, one based on facts and even our personal historical context than simply this constant nastiness.
As an example, this is a part of a conversation I had some time back. The context of the conversation was whether the portrayal of the current president (Obama) as a Chimpanzee is the same as the portrayal of the previous president (Bush) as a Chimpanzee. My position was it is not the same because of the historical context of the portrayals. I have had this conversation previously with the person who started the conversation (my brother), on another thread. In this thread, another person jumped in, for context I have frequently bowed out of conversations with him because of the toxicity of his style. He is my nephew though I have never met him, he is in his twenties; both he and my brother are professed Conservatives with a very real hatred of the current President and all things “Liberal”. Despite my brother and my positional differences, we can usually carry on a civil discussion without name-calling. My nephew is not my brother’s son. These are my biological family members who I was not raised with, thus the reason I do not know all of them.
When I tell my nephew to get historical context I do not simply mean about me but also to learn the history of this nation. He is not educated. He is also, as noted, mean spirited and nasty in his communications. Feel free to tell me I was ugly as well, I may have been.
I find myself more often these days, simply bowing out. I no longer have the emotional wherewithal to support these conversations, to defend positions when I am attacked on a personal level. There was a time when I could see past the personal attacks, rhetoric and focus, now I simply say thank you and good-bye.
What is wrong with us?
I ask this of all of us, no matter what side of the fence we sit on what is wrong with us. What part of our compassion, empathy and civility did we drop off at the local Waste Station in the past ten years? I know there have always been issues that fired up our passions, now though it seems just the mention of what side of the very deep chasm you reside on is enough to get those guns roaring. Nothing it seems can tap down this roar; nothing can extinguish the fires burning across this land setting families against each other in all out battles as if they didn’t share blood, friends in battles of witticism which in truth are nothing more than school yard taunts.
I tell you, I weep for us all. I weep for the lost art of communication, civility and even common courtesy. I weep for us all.