Thursday, August 13, 2009

Town Hall

Somebody asked me recently …”Why don’t all the members of Congress hold a town hall meeting?”

Hmmmm. Could it be that those who don’t are the smart ones? I mean, why would anyone want to hold a meeting and be yelled at, berated, booed, hissed and not listened to? What sane person would schedule something like this? I wouldn’t.

America has forgotten its manners. We no longer know how to talk about things with civility and dignity. It’s actually quite frightening.

Something has gotten in the water in America. After you drink from it integrity and civility gets flushed out of your system. Maybe it’s the influence of the media pundits who have done a wonderful job of doing other people’s thinking for them. Or maybe it’s the fact that we’ve forgotten how to be reflective or that we don’t read much anymore and don’t know how to take the time to develop a ‘considered’ opinion. Whatever it is integrity and civility are casualties. We pay for it all day every day.

It’s incredible what’s happening. Groups of people are hating other groups because they think differently. Imagine that!!! How could we ever get to a point in a free society where people might have the audacity to believe and think differently? What’s America coming to?

Don’t you love the fact that we’re bringing name calling back into a hallowed position on the American landscape? We’ve missed it haven’t we? It’s good to turn on the TV and watch a pointed finger being followed by a hissed put down. What did we do when we weren’t labeling people as socialists, tryrants or nazis? We’ve missed years and years of unexpressed hate. So, like you, I’m glad it’s back. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Joe McCarthy. If we’re inventive enough maybe we can bring back some racial and religious epithets giving them new life for new generations.

And I love the e-mail machines quoting unknown sources but saying what they say with conviction and venom. Stirring emotions and fear they too help us dream great dreams and point us in the direction of ‘happy days are here again’.

The truth is that we’re becoming thugs. Our weapons are words shouted at the top of our lungs, followed by gossip, rumor, innuendo and vile looks of disgust that thwart any attempts to promote understanding let alone reconciliation. The great prophet Pogo was right. “We have met the enemy and it is us.”

America is at its best when we are good, when we fight fair, when we dialogue, when we listen, and when we seek common ground. We’re not doing that very often anymore.

And leading the charge of incivility oftentimes are people who call themselves Christians. Blogger Brian McClaren said "But we Christians, it seems to me, have a high calling – to be radically committed to integrity and civility, even (especially) with those with whom we disagree."

Does integrity and civility mean that we don’t ‘fight’ for what’s right? Nope. It just defines the tone and establishes some behavioral boundaries. But when something is being done that we don’t think is right then we need to go at it. But going at it doesn’t mean we act like children, throwing tantrums in the public square. My word, what does that prove?

Thankfully there are good people on both sides and all sides of many issues who very quietly but with great resolve try to hammer out what’s best for the common good.

America is in deep water these days. Our economy is fragile, our moral compass is trying to find true north, our mistrust of the government is off the charts, and we’ve become entrenched in a ‘me first’ mentality.

How we choose to engage with one another in the public square of ideas might chart our destiny far more than the conclusions we reach on any specific piece of legislation.

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