It’s difficult to observe the recent spate of violence in our country and not be shaken. Last week, we watched law enforcement track down someone who mailed bombs to people he never even met. Thankfully, no one was hurt in these attempted assaults but that relief was short lived.
On Saturday, we learned that a bigot entered a synagogue in Pennsylvania and brutally murdered almost a dozen people who were simply there to embrace their religion. To call this attack horrific is to engage in gross understatement.
In the past few years we have been forced to watch in horror as people in our country are killed at concerts and at schools and in offices. While the people who perpetrate this violence are responsible for their actions, we too have a responsibility; we can’t let this become the new normal in our country.
The voice is a powerful tool. It informs and expresses but it can also lead. Those of us who have a voice are required to use it to improve things and not to make our situation worse. For far too long, the daily discourse in this country has been driven not by respect and reason but by anger and abuse. Whereas people once disagreed, they now just seethe.
It seems that disregard has replaced discussion and hatred has replaced tolerance. There are countless people around us who need help and they may never get it so long as rancor defines so much of our conversation. It is absolutely incumbent upon those with a voice to use that voice to ensure this doesn’t happen.
A return to civility is the only means by which we can recreate safe places where people can disagree and then compromise to advance the greater good. Our society has devolved to a place where too many people have decided that someone with a different perspective is wrong and dangerous. Sadly, many of these people are in powerful positions in state and national government.
It is absolutely necessary for anyone who leads to role model the importance of acceptance and inclusion so that our future is better than our present. People have the right to be safe when expressing their views and when disagreeing with someone who sees things differently. It remains concerning that what was once such a tenet of basic freedom is now so endangered.
Lastly, vitriol must be rejected at every turn now. This anger drives too much of our dialogue and it makes everything worse. It causes people to react instead of listen and dangerously inflames too many conflicts that don’t need to be conflicts at all. We must all beware of agenda-driven commentary and grating, thinly-veiled rhetoric that blames victims for what happened to them. The violence we see unfolding around us is not an opportunity for one side to prevail against another. Instead, it is a dark reminder that we have created a climate where people who have differing ideas, beliefs, or even just opinions are enemies of each other.
If this is in fact the new normal, the future is much bleaker than it needs to be. Let everyone be committed to using a voice and speaking up to make that future as bright as it should be.