The value of respect in civil discourse

The value of respect in civil discourse

In today’s society, we’re more divided than ever. People on opposite ends of the political spectrum have decided that the opinions of those opposed to their own are no longer deserving of any respect. Social media has become inundated with people spewing political hate, cursing, insulting, and demeaning the beliefs of an entire segment of the American population. It’s one thing to not agree with a person’s beliefs, but when it comes to not respecting their opinions or even their right to have an opinion, it’s a whole other issue.

Since this nation’s foundation, our political debates and interactions have operated under a system of civil discourse. Simply put, civil discourse is a calm, open, and honest conversation, which requires the courtesy of all parties involved. Throughout history, we’ve managed to maintain this sort of civil discourse, at least keeping it to a degree. Our elections weren’t as governed by insults, but instead governed by real policy discussions. Nominations to government positions didn’t end up in congressional shouting matches, but rather with the examination of actual credentials. However, in the last five years, much has changed.

In recent days, the exact opposite of the orderly discourse which our forefathers strove to support has been taking hold. The value of holding calm, civil conversations has all but dissipated completely. Sure, our forefathers occasionally settled disagreements with duels rather than discourse, but their etiquette was always in line when in debate. Now, most seem to think it’s more productive to throw out expletives on Twitter or insults dissenters behind their backs. Or more likely they don’t think at all and act on passionate impulse, free from consequence as they shout into a deafening void of amplified online voices.

Even in the town of Pelham, organizations and social media groups such as the Moms of Pelham, Parents of Pelham, and Dads of Pelham contribute to this new trend. Consistently, these groups and their members prefer to utilize insults, demeaning words and personal attacks when they’re faced with something that they disagree with. And yet these groups refuse to say it to the faces of those who they’re talking about, which is even more counterproductive.

Instead of hiding behind a screen and hurling curses at your neighbor, confront them in person. Not to encourage screaming fights in Wolfs Lane Park or the Fifth Avenue Nail Salons, but perhaps if people of opposing viewpoints had the guts to actually meet up and grab coffee with their Facebook archnemesis, an understanding and mutual respect could be reached. Compromise could be made, crises resolved, and gaps bridged. Petty paragraph rants and angry face emojis not only disrespect the opposing side, but the United States government and the gravitas of the issues being discussed. If we cannot find courtesy in the debate between our representatives and leaders, then we must serve as our own examples and hold ourselves to standards which our democracy has thrived on.

There’s no doubt that to be able to get anything done in this country, you need to be able to stand up for your beliefs. Everything today, no matter how minute, can turn into a major controversy in the blink of an eye. But even when standing your ground, no matter how vigorous the debate is, no matter how much you might disagree, the discourse must remain civil. Whether you’re talking to a writer in a local paper, a teacher, a coach, or the President himself, there must be respect. It’s how our nation was built. It’s how it will survive.