Learning to think is an important skill for citizens in a free society. In our world of instant news and instant retorts, we seldom take the time to examine the facts and think through issues. Years ago I gave the political platforms from three parties to my students without the political party labels attached. Students went issue by issue and decided what they believed without my input. Then they tallied their choices and I revealed the parties. Most were shocked. Instead of labels, I offered ideas. We are a country in the midst of labeling everything quickly, which adds to the chaos.
Today's headlines are filled with the Orlando shooting travesty. This is what I know...I don't know enough about the situation to make any type of comment except how saddened I am for the families of these victims. I am also saddened by how quickly this tragedy has become a source of ugliness through comments. The hate speech comes from every direction in this country. Where is our civil discourse?
One issue we have is the media who is so quick to put out the story, they often misreport. There is no way anyone can know the facts of a situation within minutes/hours of the situation happening. I wish someone in the media would say something like "There has been a tragedy in Orlando. Honestly, anything we could report at this time would be speculation." What a thought! Imagine how much less chaos we would have if the media would stop speculating. Our society can be described as one constantly looking to hate someone else for a difference of opinion. Social media is a hotbed for words spewed in hate and ignorance. (I am constantly shocked by those I know who claim to be followers of Christ name calling and hating people.)
Religious people want laws to match their specific beliefs. Non-believers often want laws opposite of religious beliefs. Each ideology has a desire for laws to help their cause. We, all of us, have placed too much value on laws over relationships with people. As a Christian I have often considered the fact Christ did not come to this earth and run for office to legislate his commands. Nope! He worked within a very confining government controlled society, developed relationships, and loved people. When people disagreed, He did not hop upon a rock and start screaming hateful things and calling them names. Often He shook the dust off of His feet and kept walking. He had much discourse, which people attended and either accepted or did not. None of this forced His message to change or treat people in an ugly manner.
Civil discourse begins when we do the following:
1. Get to know people, all sorts of people. Understand their perspectives. Understand various ideologies and be able to clearly articulate your own.
2. Be kind, even in disagreement, be kind. Name calling is a sign of ignorance.
3. STOP reposting stories on social media without checking the sources and the validity of the story. Seriously!
4. Instead of listening to the soundbites, go read the transcripts, the laws, the political platforms, the counter accounts, and know the media is all about the money.
5. Let your voice be heard by the politicians representing you. Track their voting records.
6. Most importantly, decide what you believe at your core rather than what you have been told you believe. When things do not align, question yourself. For example, since I am a self-confessed believer in Christ, how does this align with my beliefs about life, criminal punishment, and civic responsibility?
We must take back our country from the media and all sides of the political monster we have allowed to grow. We must begin to have civil discourse. We start one person at a time. Go have dinner with someone this week who is completely opposite of you in beliefs and listen, really listen. Then share your heart in love. Go seek out facts before jumping to conclusions. Create relationships with the unlovely. Read. Ask questions. THINK! We are so blessed to live in this country where civil discourse is at the core of our very foundation. Let's use it!
I am a teacher, which in a single word, sums up my passions and my belief in the future.