Escape from M. A. D.
"It worries me that we have stopped listening to each other," lamented my politically liberal English Department chairperson one day several years ago. As a conservative, I begrudgingly had to admit that her comment sounded prophetic.
One of the saddest developments in the culture war currently ripping America apart is that we are tossing verbal grenades at each other as fast as we can. It reminds me of the acronym "MAD" from the Cold War days, which stands for "Mutually Assured Destruction." If we want a planet where no one can survive, we are on the right track. If, however, we want to emerge from this culture war better and stronger than before, we need to turn from the personal attacks and, as adults, face the issues that divide us.
I confess I have engaged in these attacks, which means I have rhetorical blood on my hands. Name-calling leads us to dehumanize each other. All sorts of bad things can happen if we forget the humanity God gave each and every one of us.
Recently, I heard a commentator on FOX call the gunman who killed 19 schoolchildren in Texas an "animal." I do not want to defend the heinous and tragic things he did, but he was born a human, lived as a human, and died as a human.
What is my point? We have real problems in America. We need to be able to talk about them as adults so that we can come up with remedies. Joy Reid, Tucker Carlson, Dan Bongino, Keith Olberman, and Stephen Colbert get paid to fan the rhetorical flames between the left and the right in America, but do you ever hear these folks call us to sit down and sort things out?
As a believer in freedom of speech, I acknowledge their right to stoke the fires, but this all reminds me of the trench warfare of WWI. The left occupies one part of the field, and the right faces them from their own trenches in another across the divide. The left lobs artillery at the right. The right returns fire.
Calling each other stupid is unproductive. It didn't work well on the playground when we were young, and it looks juvenile now that we are adults. Let us remember that in our free society, it is OK to disagree. Let us treat each other the way we want to be treated. Instead of celebrating the righteousness of our opinions in our trenches, we need to rediscover that compromise, finding common ground with those we disagree with, is the path that got the United States started back in 1776.
I have spent many hours listening to and enjoying Rush Limbaugh. I recall him saying that we should not work with the leftists, but defeat them. While I agreed with much of what he had to say, that part of his philosophy troubled me. Defeat sows rancor and plants seeds of revenge. The way of compromise allows better outcomes.
We all want to give our children a better America than the one we inherited. This won't happen if we try to annihilate our opponents like the Nazis and communists did in the last century. I know that compromise is a four-letter word for many, but the alternatives are much uglier.