Civil discourse, or lack thereof, becomes personal

My life has indirectly been touched by the issues dividing our country. Trainer J is a Berkeley grad and close friends of his were physically assaulted in the February 1 melee on campus. Listening to an interview J’s friend’s gave on what happened to them, I am so saddened and so struck by the very personal nature of the story and upset by the continuing narrative.

I am not a terribly political person. I tried to write about it yesterday and failed. The anxiety and fear surrounding the divisiveness in our world right now makes me hesitant to even relate the story here in my own blog.

The choices we make dictates the life we lead. To thine own self be true.

In truth, I am truly appalled, disgusted, and angry about what has happened, yet not at all surprised. I live in California, within a reasonable driving distance of Berkeley and San Francisco, accurate hotbeds and depictions of the liberal and progressive thinking that has dominated the federal government the last 8 years and continues to dominate the governing authorities of California. My little townie suburb is the epitome of the flyover states; referring to it as a redneck hicksville is not far off the mark.

Like most others I know and speak to routinely, we are struck by how those whose lips move and present sincere-sounding platitudes of tolerance are so gravely intolerant. Living in this state my entire life, I understand how desensitized and business as usual such behavior seems to me. Except now it has indirectly hit home for me. Someone I care about has close personal friends, practically family, and they were assaulted, beaten, because they wanted to attend a lecture by a man whose views the UCB campus roundly and publicly condemn. It hits far too close to home and for my comfort. I want my home state to be better than that. I want people to be better than that.

But I’m a realist, and I understand that the extremes of both sides of any argument get the most attention, make the biggest splash, and strongest impressions. Unfortunately it also makes more acceptable and allows people to show little or no restraint when it comes to their emotions.

Except for those of us trying to maintain boundaries of restraint, common sense, and civility toward one another. I know what happened in Berkeley is simply par for the course in the day and age we are living in, but it’s still very hard to swallow.

Yesterday while I was driving to the gym, a truck ran a red light near my home and made a left turn into the intersection I was traveling through. I saw him in plenty of time and was able to drive around without incident. However, he followed and drew up alongside me as I was making a left turn, and then made an illegal left turn alongside of me, then proceeded to match speed with me as we traveled another couple of blocks. I slowed down, he slowed down. I speeded up, he sped up to match and stay right next to me. When I looked over, he was making faces and flipping me off. While driving, I grabbed my phone and began taking photos of him. While driving. As the flash goes off, the truck sped up and away from me.

It struck me at the time that in the civility war, common sense and restraint are losing. In the quest to be right, to WIN the arguments at any and all costs trumps all. Intimidation, violence, and falsehoods are the norm these days. An impartial press? Not for a very long time. Social media is a powerful influence; everyone has a voice. Even those of who blog about our quiet little lives have our space to share our thoughts and express our opinions.

Thing is, thoughts and news shared via blogs is not unbiased reporting of facts and events. Same is true of Facebook and other social media platforms. And equally unfortunate, great swathes of our population cannot tell the difference between the hysterical “sky is falling” screeching and the impartial dissemination of information and reporting of events.

I used to think, to have hope, that my children and future generations would go to college and learn to think more analytically, more rationally, be smarter and brighter and better than me. I had this hope for a cycle of continuous improvement, that they would be better, smarter, kinder than those I know and grew up with. The years pass and I lose a little of my shining hope that the world will be better place when I leave it.

What I see now from my window is how my peers have made mistakes and missteps, how overindulging and smoothing the pathway of growing up has resulted in this paralyzing fear of making mistakes and loss of entrepreneurial independence has been stifled. And that’s what I see – homogenization and attempts to reshape everyone so we all look alike, think alike, and act alike. Is there safety in numbers? Cries of diversity seem to contradict the slow, steady, march to be a somehow kinder and gentler people by government decree and enforced by government authority.

I am not a political person. I respect reasonable people and any differences in opinions. But violence and intimidation have crossed paths with me. And I don’t like it. I don’t appreciate having my right to drive to the gym impeded or people harmed for sport.

Even here on my own blog, I stepped back and away for month because of an unpublished troll who was unrelenting. Before today, what I talked about was routine reporting on my life and times. It’s not harsh or harmful to anyone else. Peace, balance, life is hard. It’s unfair. There is no regulating fairness. Or making people behave appropriately and try to be better, kinder, and gentler versions of themselves.

4 thoughts on “Civil discourse, or lack thereof, becomes personal

  1. OMG how scary! I’m glad you’re OK. Stuff like that has happened to me in the past and it’s just awful. I don’t understand the level of hatred in the world. Hugs.

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