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Yes, I know deep down civility is still there, but it seems to be gone now. Recently, data was released that compared the views of each major political party member about the other political party and the lines were almost flat … until 2000 when the Democratic party jumped with negative views of the Republican Party. Why?
Was it the result of Bush v. Gore, where one party feels that the Supreme Court selected Bush and not that Gore had been cherry picking his recount requests to certain counties rather than statewide (until it was too late)? 9/11 unified the country but not for long. 2008 came along, Democrats didn’t seem to mind graphics depicting John McCain as a bloodthirsty vampire and Obama was elected. With that election, the Republicans’ view of the Democratic Party took a major plunge and our modern age of hyper-partisanship was officially born.
Twenty-plus years ago, shouting at senators while they are getting into an elevator, or disrupting them or other government employees while they are dining at a privately owned establishment would be rebuked by the media and the public at large. Now it seems to be encouraged by the vocal public and is not rebuked by the media, probably under the guise of “all is fair in war when you are on the right side.” Maybe that’s it. Before, we never used to really feel like our own side was so right that anything you did to the other side was allowed. (Yes, there have always been those on both sides who felt that way but they used to be marginalized).
One example was the so-called War on Coal. Yes, coal is not the best source of energy and was on the way out due to market forces. Unfortunately, instead of waiting for natural market forces to act, more and more regulations were added under the guise of protecting the environment (diminishing returns be damned). When those impacted by the regulations complained, they were told to learn how to code instead of working in such an environmentally unfriendly job. Ordinary Americans trying to make a living that just happened to be in the same building as media companies on the “wrong side” were faced with aggressive protests just to get to work.
We are better than this. I am former first responder – while I was paid to do critical care transports, I volunteered as a paramedic with well over 3,000 911 calls under my belt. I interacted with people at their worst. They don’t need someone to tell them they are on the wrong side of history or it’s their fault that something happened. A pregnant woman shoots heroin and goes into labor at home; we arrive moments after the baby is born and is not breathing. At that moment, what happened before is not as important as the now: Getting the baby to breathe and oxygenated so by the time we get to the hospital both mom and baby are alive (and pink instead of blue). I didn’t care about berating the mother about the circumstances. From that call to holding the hand of a young woman frightened and scared after being hit by a car while crossing the street as we travel to the hospital, letting her know that she will be fine (she was). I didn’t act this way because that was the required way to act – I did it because that’s who I was and it was the right way to act for people in need.
I know these feelings are still there. Last year when Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast, other Texans outside the hit zone left their jobs and went door-to-door helping people do emergency repairs to their homes to prevent further damage (like tarping rooves) until proper repairs could be done. The Cajun Navy from Louisiana came to help those trapped by flooding. Citizens scrounged up supplies and donated them to create refugee packs so that our fellow Americans who had to flee their home would at least have the basic supplies needed for hygiene and clothing.
This is what America used to be. Not getting upset over a Halloween costume. Not getting upset over a baseball hat on an airplane. Not yelling at someone while they are eating dinner and disrupting other diners. Not aggressively yelling at ordinary people as they try to get to work in peace. We need to help each other not just by being more civil, but treating each other with respect. Respect that most everybody deserves.