21 October 2019

NOTE FROM NORM: Be Nicer And More Civil To One Another

A couple weeks ago I posted on Facebook my thoughts about President Donald Trump’s visit to Minneapolis, and the decision by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to insert himself into the fray for obviously partisan political reasons.

I don’t intend to litigate that post all over again.

Instead, I want to focus my thoughts on the reaction to the piece by those who posted their own opinions on my Facebook page.

Let me first make it clear that any comments directed at me personally, for or against my opinion, come with the territory.  I accepted long ago that being in the arena came with all sorts of positive and negative implications.

I’ve been called a lot of names in my public career and I’ve learned to live with the vitriol and the personal attacks.

Politics is a contact sport and if you’re in the arena you can’t be a spectator.

No, my thoughts this week are more on the interaction between those on my Facebook page who reacted — negatively or positively — to my post.

Not their comments to or about me.

But, the ones to and about one another.

I’ve long believed that the level of civil discourse in America has eroded dangerously.  It’s not a recent phenomenon or one that can be simply attributed to the current occupant of the White House.

Barack Obama, who I disagreed with strenuously about any number of issues, was subjected to some of the most egregious and contemptible personal attacks of any American leader in modern times.

While there were many who, in good faith, attacked his policies and politics, there were far too many Americans who attacked him and his family because of his race, the color of his skin and even the origin of his name.

Social media has given us — all of us — far too much license to verbalize our worst instincts.  To say those things publicly that we would, in the past, say privately or simply keep inside our head.

Our collective Mom’s adage that if you have nothing good to say about someone you shouldn’t say anything at all has all too often been replaced by “If you have nothing good to say about someone you should tweet or post it on social media immediately!”

Over the past many years I have posted hundreds of my “Notes from Norm” on Facebook and elsewhere.  I make a point of posting these reflections and let my thoughts speak for themselves.

Rarely do I weigh in on the reflections of others or their comments, good or bad, about what I think about anything.

What I post are my opinions and what I think about the issues, ideas or circumstances facing the world I see in front of me.

I am long past the point in my life where I am thinking about the next political campaign.  Or seeking approval or affirmation from those I agree with — or those with whom I disagree.

But I do care about what people say about one another on my Facebook page.  I care when people take aim at one another and challenge people’s patriotism, attack them personally by disparaging their intellect, how they look, their race, their religion or even the fact that they have an opinion.

Free speech gives us all the right to say nearly anything we want.

Civility demands that we don’t.

Being civil, or exercising basic comity towards one another, doesn’t dilute our 1st Amendment Rights.

Frankly, I think it strengthens and enhances them.

If we get our negative feelings about one another out of the way we can focus on what it is that we are actually saying to one another and whether in the midst of our disagreements we can find common ground.

People have strong opinions about Donald Trump.  They had strong opinions about Barack Obama.  George Bush.  And, frankly, every American President.

People have strong opinions about me, my career in public service and even the choice of lure I use when I go fishing!

Good.  Bad.  And, yes, even ones of indifference.

The things people said about Abraham Lincoln in his day were hardly polite.  Sadly, the things that were said became the thing that one person did to end his life and send our nation into turmoil.

What we say is fast becoming the things far too many decide to do.

Nobody and everybody is to blame.

It’s not my job in life to censor or monitor the comments of those who choose to post on my Facebook page.

If you have thoughts about what I write, what I think and what I believe, I welcome you to share them.

If you want to attack me, call me an idiot, rage against my politics, my decision to become a Republican, support Donald Trump when I believe such support is warranted, or what kind of lure I use when I fish, be my guest.

But, be nicer to one another.