Honor America this July 4th, be involved but be civil

We live in a great country and we should celebrate tomorrow. Our forefathers were profound table setters for a country trying to save it from itself through its design and initial Bill of Rights. Yet, we risk a great deal with our hyper-partisanship, which can be equated with two loud voices shouting in the wind. The dilemma is when people are shouting, there is not much listening going on. It is OK to disagree, but we need to listen to others’ point of view. An old boss used to say, “we have two ears and one mouth and need to use them in that proportion.”

I have written several posts over the last few months over the need to listen more, collaborate more, name call less and get information from reputable sources. On this latter point, far too many people are getting their information from sources they only agree with. The extreme worst cases of this is the bookends, Fox News and MSNBC, which at best, are giving a spin doctored view of the world. I have used this example before, but the joke goes when a relative from the north was visiting his parents in Alabama, he was asked to put down their dog who had been bitten by a rabid fox, as he was the better shot. The headlines in the northern paper where he lived said “Man puts down rabid dog.” The headline in the Birmingham paper was “Damn Yankee kills beloved pet.” Same story, different view.

As an Independent voter and former member of both mainstream parties, I can assure you neither party has all the good ideas. And, with the heavy monied influence from industry lobbyists, we have some ideas that do not pass the smell test as they are so heavily weighted toward an industry. Our only guard against this is to get involved and be more informed. We need to write our legislative leaders and tell them we support or don’t support things, but use reasoned arguments. If you name call or brand something, your argument has less merit. The sad part is I see legislators do this and they need to be held even more accountable as they should know better.

I watch and read multiple news sources, which do not include either Fox or MSNBC. My niece watches both as she feels she gets a balanced view. I told her she is actually seeing two extreme points of view (the shouters), that she is seeing less of the real story. Just like the two headlines, the real story is between the two and some stories are not covered at all, while others are covered ad nauseum. So, please look to news sources that will be more even-handed. The more strident you are, when you see or read real news, you will find it more disagreeable. That is OK. It may help you understand the other vantage point.

Two final comments. First, I mentioned name calling and branding lessens one’s argument. But, go beyond that. Be civil in your discourse. If you cannot articulate your arguments as if you were sitting across from the audience, then don’t post them. If I read an opinion noted in a blog and see vile comments in response, then I tend to simply ignore the commenters as their opinion is not worth reading. This goes whether I agree or disagree, for the most part, with the opinion.

Second, actions speak louder than words. Get more active in the community and follow your passions. If political activism is not your thing, do what floats your boat and help others. I volunteer to help with homeless families whose income could not cover rent and other expenses and they lost their house. My wife has a passion to help shut-ins with food delivery. If you want to mentor kids, any elementary school could use tutors, readers or teacher assistants.

Happy 4th of July. Let’s get involved and let’s be civil even when we disagree. And, in the words of two great fictional Americans, Bill and Ted, “be excellent to one another and, party on dudes.”







11 thoughts on “Honor America this July 4th, be involved but be civil

  1. Well Said. I also have an acquaintance who believes balanced news comes from watching both Fox and MSNBC. Closer to reality might be reading NY Times, Vs. Washington Post, vs Wall Street Journal.

    The author of 935 Lies hits the nail on the head though, with his position that too many people these days just don’t care, and with that, democracy comes to an end.

    Great post and have a good holiday.

    • Barney, I was watching the Moyers Report interview while you were posting. Very telling and not surprising. His cautions for our democracy are worrisome and pertinent (and inevitable, unless we change). It is interesting how things tie together. Emily wrote a post about reading “banned books” and her post and comments from many are illuminating. If people tell us what they want us to hear, ban books that we should read, guide us to news sources that spoon feed propaganda, reduce our attention to mere pictures which can easily mask a story, it will take a well informed citizenry to overcome this. Talking about pushing a rock uphill.

      I don’t know if you saw Trudy Rubin’s column today about Cheney which goes further than what Lewis speaks of. In m view, Rubin is one of the better foreign affairs reporters in the world, so her opinions matter a great deal. Happy 4th, BTG

  2. Important points. I teach composition at the college level, and I try to teach student to write arguments in a way that respects opposing views. Unfortunately, it’s too easy for them to turn on a TV/Radio/Internet, and see “professional” journalists engaging in the opposite behavior.

    • Thanks Debra. “Professional” is appropriately highlighted. Maybe we could ask students to watch these pundits and critique how their style detracts from their argument or masks over lesser points.

  3. Yes, yes, and yes! I really like your thoughts on getting some diversity in the news we watch or read. It’s never a good idea to surround ourselves with people and things just like us. I always have believed if two of us are exactly alike, one of us is unnecessary.

  4. yes, we represent ourselves, our families, our counties/states/countries wherever we go – but most of all it’s important to be the very best that we can be…

    sometimes i observe and am quite sad at how fast people can poke fun or criticize others.

    happy fourth to you and your loved ones!

    • Z, you honor us back here with how you carry yourself. Through your art teaching and advocacy, you represent what is good about people, in general, but specifically Americans. As for those poking fun, some people believe they elevate themselves by putting down others. This is one reason why they limit themselves to those with whom they agree, as the group think elevates them as they are not being contradicted. It is truly when someone in the group questions what they are doing that they see start to see the wrongness of their viewpoint.

      As you know, I often state I am an Independent, as I don’t want others to label me as a tree hugger, liberal, etc. as means to dismiss my point of view. It makes them uncomfortable to know that someone who is not extreme disagrees with their point of view. More often than not, I fail to dissuade, but maybe small inroads can be made.

      Thanks and have a great 4th, BTG

  5. Love your perspective. I do TRY to listen to the opposing side, but its often so hard because I can’t follow the logic. I listen to way to much NPR and PBS. But they’re the ones who don’t yell!

    Happy 4th to you.

    • Thanks Linda. Agreed on the non-yelling news outlets. It is hard to watch pundits and so called news reporters who use specious arguments. This is one reason I avoid the Sunday morning talk shows as the politicians and some pundits are giving a lobbyist’s argument, such as that of the fossil fuel industry, NRA or banking industry. Last month, I sent George Will an email and asked him what he did with the old George Will, who was conservative, but not an extremist. Some of the stuff he has written in the last few years is not well grounded. Many pundits write to an audience and not speak to the issues. The better conservative columnists are Michael Gerson and David Brooks because they speak to the issues and recognize when people are doing a good job.

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