Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Old Table, or A Call for Civility

Mom refinished my grandmother's old round oak table with claw feet. Every night our family had dinner around that old table. As a kid, I told Mom that someday I wanted the table. My children grew up around that table. Dinnertime conversation was and is important to our family, and the table symbolizes every dinnertime conversation we every had.

I think the first conversation I can remember was a political discussion as to whether President John F. Kennedy should have appeared in a swim suit on a public beach with his children. I was only six years old when he was elected, so I don't remember whether this was during the campaign, or whether it was after he became president. I think it was after he became president.

During the Vietnam war, there were many political conversations around the table. We discussed everything, and no subject was taboo. My Uncle Dale and Aunt Wilma would come to town once or twice a year, and Dale would purposely take the opposite side of any discussion just to see what arguments you could make. Danny and I taught our children around the table. We talked about school strikes and the space shuttle that blew up. We talked about presidents and politics.

As a result of these dinnertime talks, I've had many conversations with friends and co-workers about politics, religion, etc. I don't remember ever getting into a situation of animosity in these discussions--until recently. Something has happened in our country. Something has gone dreadfully wrong. People can't "discuss" anymore. It has to be name calling and fury. I've noticed this over the last couple of years, but it all came to head with me over the last couple of days.

A friend of mine posted a video on Facebook with her comments. I began a discussion with her about the topic, and posted a video for her to watch, as well. This was all very friendly. Suddenly, two "gentlemen" who I've never met were attacking me with verbal barbs. I will sum it up like this: in the course of about 12 hours, I was called an irresponsible, idiotic liar and a racist retard. All this because I believe that socialized medicine will turn out to be a mistake for our country. I was aghast at the hostility shown by these men toward a woman they've never met. I'm pretty sure that if they were standing in the same room with me, they would have toned down the barbs somewhat, but because they were hiding behind a computer screen, I was a clear target for venting their hostility.

I'm not sure what this says about society in America, but whatever it says, I don't like it. What happened to the America I grew up in where the opinions of others were respected as freedom of speech? I am respectful of the opinions of others. I'm respectful of their opinions, but I certainly don't have to tolerate personal attacks on my character. Those who know me well, know that I can (and will) come up fighting when attacked personally.

For those who will read this blog post, I'm calling for civility in our political discussions with others. This is America where all are supposed to be free to express an opinion. Be respectful of others. Be respectful of their opinions. Discuss; don't attack. My Dad used to say that you can learn something from everyone you meet. Of course, that can only happen if you are open to hear what those people have to say. Maybe we all should have an old round oak table. Maybe Mom's table has magic powers to teach people the art of civilized discussion.

3 comments:

  1. I commented on that same stream and had a second comment all ready to go when I realized that people who had such a hateful knee jerk reaction would be too closed minded to really talk to. So I deleted the comment and went on with my day. I found that rather sad, that they felt a need to attack so viciously because someone looked at things differently.

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  2. Yes, I saw your comment and the way they treated you, as well. You were smart to bow out. Unfortunately, I wasn't that smart.

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  3. Gabrielle ValentineApril 27, 2010 at 11:35 PM

    I bookmarked this in my head to comment on and wanted a minute of peace to come back and do so. I agree, with both of you. I've had my ragey moments as well with religious/political stuff. What I got so angry at in the first place was the name calling - people telling me I couldn't have an opinion or that I was stupid, etc. Now, I wasn't so much better in my answers to those people during that time I was going through around Christmas. I looked at some of your links, Laurie - I can see where you are coming from. A lot of time and money is wasted for stuff that doesn't seem to fit with making the USA any better or more fitting with the laws. I do agree the name calling and stuff is not good. It doesn't fix anything. I, too, need to be more careful of how I post something so it doesn't attract that. I do have strong feelings on the topics - I do think some of the tea partiers for example are just getting riled up and used for political advancement - but I don't understand though, how any male feels right speaking that way to any female? It's beyond me, whether it's religion or politics. It's just plain rude. I had men back in January telling me off, in very rude ways. It was just wrong, forget the topic even. And it just caused more anger. Anyway, I hear you and I do get where you're coming from.

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