The primary election is over. Some of us feel like winners, other are recovering from painful defeats, and, judging from the fact that only 20 percent of us went to the polls at all, most of us have opted out of a process that seems pointless and even downright nasty at times.
But regardless of party or political inclinations, we assume we all want the same things. We propose we start fresh to create a community that solves its problems amicably, demonstrating civility and mutual respect even when we disagree. A community that rejects spite and malice as the way to attract followers to one’s own point of view.
Yes, democracy means we disagree, challenge each other, even argue. But we don’t find solutions to our problems by presenting others with half-truths, or even lies, or allowing ourselves to be “played” by those who paint the world as made up of good guys and bad guys and no one in between.
Take our schools as a pressing example. All of us want the same thing: for every child in this community to have an equal and excellent education. Some of us think small neighborhood schools are the way to go while others argue for consolidation. That’s a difference of opinion, but it doesn’t make any of us bad people.
Back in school you learned that opinions aren’t the basis for an argument unless they’re backed up by facts, case studies, expert witnesses, and even statistics. Appeals to raw emotions, smear tactics, and name calling are tactics unworthy in a civil society. “Everybody says this” and “Nobody with a brain thinks that” should be off-limits in civil deliberation. Remember when your mother said, “I don’t care what everybody says”? She was right about that, too.
Maybe you’ve seen the vitriolic commentary on local issues posted by a number of Scotland County residents on Facebook recently. We all know social media can be a force for good, but it can also encourage us to parade our lowest, basest selves on the Internet for all to see. Do we really want to live in a society where hateful tweets or Facebook posts are considered acceptable ways to communicate? Do we want to treat each other as the worst sort of enemies instead of as members of the same community? Make no mistake about it: our actions create or destroy community in a dozen ways every day.
William J. Barber II, a prophet from our own state, asks us to return to the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., when he argues “we face a real choice between chaos and community.” Our country—and we would add, our county—he writes, “needs a moral revolution to bring about beloved community” that will come about only by “realizing how connected we are: what we do unto others or to the earth we really do to ourselves.”
Barber concludes that the main obstacle to this community is “the fear that people in power have used for generations to divide and conquer God’s children who are, whatever our differences, all in the same boat.”
Since we’re “all in the same boat,” let’s resolve to pull together instead of wrenching ourselves apart. We have a long list of reasons to be proud of our community. Let’s resolve to add a political process we can brag about, starting with saying no to divisive tactics and people.
Let us know what you think. Email us at [email protected] and continue the dialogue.
This article was written by members of the Scotland County Democratic Women. They are Jan Schmidt, Bonnie Kelley and Nancy Barrineau.