Sunday, January 16, 2011

Civil Discourse

"Be compassionate to each other."

Those words came from the leader of a memorial walk for those killed in last Saturday's shootings in Tucson. She urged those gathered at the event to "starting tonight and for the rest of your life, be compassionate to everyone."

In the week since the shooting rampage, debate has raged over whether the current tone of our political environment played a role in the shootings. And there's certainly enough blame to go around -- on both sides of the fence -- for a toxic political climate.

But questioning whether ads with cross-hairs or comments about "second amendment remedies" might have caused a mentally unstable young man to open fire at a supermarket makes the debate too easy -- and absolves the rest of us from our role in creating an often contentious climate.

It's too easy to turn those who disagree with us into demons. Too easy to write off those we don't understand. Too easy to let snarkiness pass as real commentary on those issues about which we're passionate. Too easy to forget about compassion.

I want my children to learn to be passionate about the issues that are important to them. And I want them to have opinions -- even strong ones -- about the world around them. But there is a certain amount of hypocrisy when I call some conservative politician or pundit an idiot, and then reprimand my daughter for using the same language about her brother.

I want my children to know that we can disagree with people without demonizing them.

I want them to learn compassion, and respect, and kindness. I want them to know that everyone deserves those -- even the people we disagree with the most, even the people whose opinions drive us the most crazy.

And it's not just politicians who need that lesson.

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