Thanks to a recent rather snide Facebook post by a friend of mine who is as red a Republican as they come (which he has since removed so don’t bother looking), I was able to finally pinpoint what has made me so ill about the last five years of partisan fighting.
The actions of today’s politicians and many of their supporters on both sides of the aisle go against a principle my Daddy instilled in me and that has become a creed of mine as a journalist throughout the years.
Daddy told me, “You don’t have to respect or like the people who hold public office. Respect is not something you give to another simply because they were elected. They have to earn it. But at the same time, you must always respect the office that they hold. That does command your respect. It’s finding that thin line to walk in those situations that is difficult.”
Do you know what the definition of “walking a thin line” is? Just in case you don’t, here it is: “To interact in a situation that demands balance between two competing things or emotions.”
My Daddy was one of the wisest men I’ve ever known.
It’s the fact that people have forgotten – or never understood – how to walk that fine line that bothers me deep down in my gut.
I have been silent while receiving emails, Facebook posts and tweets that show a complete lack of respect for many of our elected officials – from the local to the national levels.
Many of these individuals just pass theses inflammatory and divisive statements along without doing any research to see if there is an ounce of truth in them. They just pass along the hatred and venomous name-calling, over-the-top hysterics and comparisons to some of the vilest individuals to ever walk this earth through words, pictures and/or cartoons.
And every time I receive one, I think to myself, “What are any of these rancor-filled actions accomplishing other than to rip our country apart even more? It’s no wonder that the art of compromise no longer exists.”
I cannot remember a time in my life that politics has become so vitriolic. Is it any wonder that other nations have begun losing respect for the United States of America when our nation’s leaders and their backers’ actions and words are so self-indulgent and irresponsible?
The ability to have a civil discourse on differences of opinion appears to have gone the way of the extinct Passenger Pigeon.
I’m not naïve enough to think that everyone will get along in politics. Even in our country’s earliest days, you had opposing views among our Founding Fathers.
Just look at John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Each man was a member of what have been deemed the first two political parties in the United States – the Federalists and the Democratic-Republican Party.
Adams was a Federalist who believed in a strong nationalistic government, while Jefferson was a member of the Democratic-Republican Party that believed in limited federal powers.
The struggle for power between these two factions leading up to the 1800 presidential election tore apart a decades-long friendship, in large part because of some really ugly campaigning on both sides.
It was only after both men left public office that wisdom born out of old age and the efforts of a mutual friend enabled them to heal the rift during the last 14 years of their lives.
For me, two of the most compelling sentences written by Jefferson about Adams were written in a Dec. 5, 1811 letter to Benjamin Rush, a fellow co-signer of the Declaration of Independence and the mutual friend who worked to bring them together:
“But with a man [Adams] possessing so many other estimable qualities, why should we be dissocialized by mere differences in opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, or anything else? His opinions are as honestly formed as my own.”
If only today’s politicians and supporters from both parties could comprehend Jefferson’s words and use them to learn to how to walk the thin line of respecting the office, while disliking the person holding the position.
I think Daddy’s message to me was that learning to walk that thin line is not easy. It’s far easier to lash out in anger and frustration and spread gossip and rumors than it is to work together to find a balance and solutions.
But if ever our nation needed people to learn how, it is now.