by Ed Wilkinson
We seem to be living in a world of extremes.
The headlines scream at us from two distant poles. Liberal – conservative. Gay – straight. Vatican – LCWR. Skinheads – Sikhs. Fox News – MSNBC. Pro-life – Pro-abortion. Rich – poor. Black – white. We are polemically divided, starting our arguments from two different directions!
As our editorial points out this week, to intellectually oppose something gets turned into a hatred for a whole group of people. In other words, some would claim that to oppose same-sex marriage is a sure sign of hatred for homosexuals. Logic would demand that there could be honest disagreement without personal enmity.
And so it goes, as craziness swirls out of control, as witnessed again this week when a crazed man targeted a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Or an unidentified Brooklyn gunman shoots two store owners, perhaps because of the numbers that appear in their business addresses.
For some, the answer is in stricter gun control laws. But the truth is that we already have strict gun control laws. The problem is one of enforcement. We can’t even agree on how to solve a problem.
Most guns used for crimes are illegal to begin with. The owners have no right to hold them. The laws should be enforced. The laws already are on the books, so how does a more restrictive law help prevent crime?
But when the police attempt to enforce the law, community organizers cry foul. For example, New York City’s stop-and-frisk practice currently under scrutiny is an attempt to get illegal guns off the streets, but some feel it is a racist practice that targets blacks and other minorities. We move forward and take two steps backward.
Can we agree on anything in our society? In the ironic words of Rodney King: “Can we all just get along?”
A recent Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll found that eight in 10 Americans say they are “frustrated with the tone in politics today,” and nearly three-quarters of Americans say that campaigns have become more negative over the years.
In response, the Knights of Columbus has launched a national, nonpartisan initiative “to give voice to Americans’ desire for civility in public discourse.”
“The American people want and deserve civility and a conversation on the issues rather than personal attacks,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a statement.
Facebook users can show support for the effort by “Liking” the petition at Facebook.com/CivilityinAmerica.
The petition reads: “We, the undersigned citizens of the United States of America, respectfully request that candidates, the media and other advocates and commentators involved in the public policy arena employ a more civil tone in public discourse on political and social issues, focusing on policies rather than on individual personalities. For our part, we pledge to make these principles our own.”
In announcing the initiative, Anderson said, “All of us have friends with whom we disagree, and we long ago learned how to have civil relationships despite our differences.”
Can we all just get along? It remains to be seen. But we cannot sit on the sidelines and throw up our hands. We need to stay involved, but we also need to respect the other person and not demonize the speaker because of his or her position on the issues.