When I was in sixth grade my mother presented me with a wonderful book on manners. Published by Seventeen Magazine it was a comprehensive guide for "young ladies" and gave direction for everything from how to walk down the sidewalk with your friends (be sure not to walk more than 2 abreast so that others have a chance to use the walkway as well) to how to answer the telephone (always identify the family so the caller knows right away if they have called the right number). Much of what was covered in that book served me well. Other stuff got me disliked and bullied. For instance, the directions for having a conversation with someone caused the girls in my class at Christ the King to label me as weird. Trying to actually DO what was advised in that book made me a target for years. How did I know the little creeps thought asking questions about other people or telling a story about a similar situation they had experienced was considered pushy and odd? I was following directions - directions that held me in good stead once I reached a more sophisticated audience than other 6th grade mean girls.
One piece of advice from that Manners Book was to avoid discussing two things when in polite company: religion and politics. The reason was simple - these two subjects are hot-button items. If you want to be sure and upset the apple cart at a social gathering, start discussing your views on organized religion or the state of the Democratic party. Sides will be drawn, voices will be raised and if you are in a particularly well-fueled gathering (in other words, if the keg has been tapped or the bourbon poured) there might even be a fist fight or two out on the front lawn.
People think that the tone of discourse today has disintegrated. Perhaps it has, but I am not really sure that is true. If we study the past with eyes open wide we will see that people have always been pretty nasty when it comes to discussing either religion or politics. We think, sometimes, that 'back in the good old days' no one ever went to the extremes we see today. However, we conveniently forget the number of State Legislatures that made carrying a firearm into session forbidden in order to cut down on the shootings during debates, the nasty yet well written letters exchanged by our founding fathers (Adams and Jefferson come to mind immediately) as well as the deep suspicion aroused in the heart of every WASP when confronted by a religious belief that is not their own. To think that Ann Coulter's nasty tweets about the Pope is anything other than the newest manifestation of a deep suspicion of 'Papists' or that protestors taking a stage and microphone away from Bernie Sanders is any different from the rallies held in the 1920's by supporters of Fascism ignores, in my opinion, the lessons of history.
Each side thinks they have the God Given Right to impose their thoughts and beliefs on those around them. I have fallen into this trap myself, trying to evangelize and instead causing undue pain to those I love. I have not ever been able to repair those relationships and for that I am sorry; however, in light of what I see going on around me I have come to realize that my sin of pride is the same sin of pride held by everyone of us....if anything, I don't feel so all alone.
I have my own ideas and I will or will not vote because of those ideas. I try each day to put my will into the Hands of Jesus, for He is my Higher Power. I specifically ask The Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts and my actions and since I started making that a deliberate and intentional prayer the number of personal boo-boos I commit daily have plummeted.
While I do not want to imply that people need to be quiet about what they believe or what principles they hold dear, I do think we have to be willing to take responsibility for how we present those ideas and principles. If I, for instance, disagree with the stance or platform presented by a particular politician it does not speak well of me to refer to his or her supporters as "stupid" or to question their loyalty to their professed religion. As my southern grandmother used to say, "One catches more flies with honey than vinegar" and if what I want to do is convince someone that laws that require a clinic that provides poor women with abortions should be held to the same standards of cleanliness and medical readiness as those clinics that provide rich women liposuction it might be better that I not call the person a mean-spirited name. The chance that they may listen to me at all might be slim. Call them a racist who is really out to make it easier for women of color to end their unborn child's life because those pesky women have too many children anyway and that chance goes from slim to none.
Today's discourse is the roughest I have seen in years. Not since the 1950's and 1960's have I heard the level of hostility in political opponents when 'discussing' issues that need, desperately, to be addressed. My prayer is that the country will calm down, that people will begin to trust the process that so many men and women died to put into place and that we, as a country, will survive the current storm intact. Battered? Bruised? Maybe. But intact...we must remain intact.
Keep us all in prayer, people. It is going to be a bumpy ride.