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January 18, 2010
This was the best one ever, I said to Pearl as we left New Hope Baptist church last night. And it was -- the singing, the preaching, the young people taking part: a young girl danced, the Reformed Temple youth choir sang, and two boys from New Hope read poems in which they each displayed a pulpit style that will serve them well if they ever decide to go into preaching. The annual MLK Scholarships were handed out -- this year, a set of triplets was among the winners. One of the rabbis and the senior pastor of New Hope joked, as they do every year, about being honorary members of each others congregations. Even the politicians rose to the occasion: their speeches were remarkably un-selfserving. At the end, when we all joined hands and sang the anthem of the civil rights movement, "We Shall Overcome," I was filled with a variety of tears -- tears of memory, of patriotic pride, of sorrow at the suffering that was grinding on and on in Haiti at that very moment. I resolved again, as I always do, to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

At the same time, moved as I was by it all, I was frustrated. Why has our level of civil discourse degenerated into such a horror show of paranoid mudslinging? I so want it to change. I am tired -- sick to death is more like it -- of our resolute refusal to respect one another, the perverse pride taken in public at landing a perfect shot right between the eyes of those with whom we disagree. I am sick of our public verbal violence against one another, and of the disingenuousness of the wide-eyed "Who, me?" when a public figure is called on it. And I have a proposal:

By all means, disagree. The competition among ideas is what democracy is all about. But, for the love of God, don't have enemies. Think of them as opponents, not enemies. People with whom you disagree, not demons. Never say anything about an opponent that you would not want said about your own child by someone who disagreed with him -- if you wouldn't want it said about your child, please don't say it about anyone else.

And -- even if you're famous and on television -- if you can't think of a civil way to express your disagreement, maybe it's time you went back to school.
Copyright © 2019 Barbara Crafton
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