Take a Democrat or Republican to lunch, or sit down for coffee. I suggest this because I am disturbed by the inflammatory rhetoric I am increasingly witnessing on a national and local level.
Are you a Democrat? Then you represent liberal crap. A Republican? Clearly, you have no compassion for anyone except for the very rich. An Independent? You must be a radical socialist. Sadly, many of the conversations are unprintable in a community newspaper.
Political discussion is no longer focused on issues. It’s based on labels and preconceptions about our political parties. And it’s increasingly angry and uncivil in tone.
Twice a month I have had the privilege of engaging in debate and discussions about issues facing our nation on Valley Vision. The format is two Democrats and two Republicans engage in conversation. Jerry Knirk and I represent the Democrats, and Jim LeFavre and Wayne Byers represent the Republicans.
The conversations are civil, informative and at times entertaining. I learn a lot from my Republican colleagues, and hopefully, they learn something from Jerry and myself. As a result of this forum, I have learned to always examine the issues from two perspectives rather than to double down on my own opinion. At times, I have even modified or changed an opinion as a result of these discussions. Everyone is respectful, and I have to say that the Republicans, Jim, and Wayne, are two of the nicest guys you could ever meet.
The nasty tone of our political discussions mirrors that of what is happening in both Washington and Concord. The two major parties are throwing mud at one another rather than sitting down and trying to solve critical problems facing us at the state and national level.
I have two simple suggestions. If someone throws angry, demeaning or disrespectful words your way while engaging in a discussion of politics, walk away or take your fingers off of the keyboard. Silence is the single most eloquent thing you can respond. And if you have the chance, take someone who sits on the other side of the aisle to lunch or coffee. Focus on the issues rather than on stereotypes. You may find you have more commonality than you know.