We received a call this week from an unhappy reader who said he wouldn’t renew his subscription which was scheduled to run out in a couple of weeks. I’m troubled by him leaving – not because it’s one less reader, but because it amplifies what’s becoming the downfall of our civility.
We can’t have discussions anymore. “I’m right and you’re a complete idiot” has become an all-too-familiar mantra for both sides of every political and social disagreement. We aren’t allowed to express a view without being labeled a racist, homophobe, or communist.
But here’s a fact most of us know: at least 70% of this country, if not more, are in the middle. And we’re tired of the fringe elements on both sides making all the noise. We’re tired of everyone yelling over each other instead of talking to each other.
And most of all, we’re tired that nobody is willing to share ideas to find a common result.
I certainly have my views. They’ve been molded by living on military bases at a young age, going to school in the 1960s in the shadows of the smokestacks of manufacturing in the North, as well as the classrooms of the Deep South where whites and blacks sat on separate sides of the room. I was scolded by an adult at a high school football game for sitting with a boy from my sixth-grade class. A black boy. In the black section of the bleachers. The truth is, I didn’t even notice.
I was in middle and high school during the Vietnam War. I remember going through nuclear bomb drills in schools where students got under their desks and covered their heads with their hands. I had just started driving in 1973 when the first gas shortage led to long lines and a unique distribution plan. If your license tag ended with an odd number, you could only buy gas on odd-numbered days.
I was shaving in 10th grade, so I was popular with some of my classmates because I could buy beer without showing an ID. That made me happy. Now I don’t have to show one to get the senior citizen discount and that makes me sad.
I also used to have long hair. Really.
The point is, we all come from different backgrounds. We’ve all been influenced by life in different ways. And we all should be allowed to embrace our ideals and values without condemnation.
There are beliefs I won’t change. I never will think it’s all right for a man to play women’s sports. I was a sportswriter for more than 45 years and there is a difference. I wrote about this last year and a reporter who we wanted to hire refused the job because she didn’t agree. Her four-year college degree eventually landed her a job as a tour guide. But if she’s happy, then I applaud her dedication.
I also don’t want children in kindergarten and first, second and third grades to be exposed to any discussion of gender. That’s too young. When I hear the audio of a White House spokeswoman openly crying about “cruelty” to 6-year-olds because they can’t learn about LGBTQ issues, I can only think back to Sgt. Hulka’s famous line in the movie Stripes, “Lighten up Francis.”
What’s cruel is how adults are using – and possibly hurting – children to make themselves feel better.
What’s also lost in this great divide is the fact these stories that push the boundaries are on our editorial page. According to Oxford, the definition of an editorial is “a newspaper article written by or on behalf of an editor that gives an opinion on a topical issue.” That means we’re supposed to have a point of view. We’re supposed to incite thought and encourage comment.
Or you can quit reading the paper and close your mind.
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