Where Hath Civility Gone?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s many accomplishments during her life cannot be argued.  There is a reason that women from all over the country are paying tribute to her during this week as the first woman ever to lie in state at the Capitol.  Given present day behavior, what I found most unique about her was not her professional acumen but rather her independent character.  Not giving into her friends of the same political persuasion, she befriended her conservative colleague, the late Antonin Scalia, on the Supreme Court.  They both had a passion for opera and would be seen together often at opera performances. They were the odd couple in a country whose citizenry has been stricken with the deep wound of anger and hate.

It is unfortunate that our President, during the past 4 years, has modeled the type of behavior that we are currently seeing on both the political left and right.  Rather than trying to bridge the gap between the divisiveness we now suffer from, he has twittered, with no small amount of hostility, against his opponents.  Never to be forgotten is that famous line from Republican Abraham Lincoln: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.  I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.” Both cable news and social media have fueled the polarities by their extremist statements vilifying the other side.  We are quickly becoming a country of two separate bodies who are so ironclad in each of their belief systems that they have no desire to break bread with those of different opinion. 

The reinforcement for discord is built into the system when attention is given to the dramatic and sensational but not necessarily to what is factually accurate.  The algorithms created by technology have added gasoline to the already flaring tempers of so many of us.  When the hits on a site reward the advertising agencies that subsidize megalithic corporations such as Facebook, the foundation for rational discourse withers away.  Let us hope that the future brings meaningful interventions that set boundaries on the sources of fake news.  How to contain the false news behind so much of the rage felt by so many of us, without the loss of our individual freedoms, indeed, will take a most skilled leadership.  This will obviously take a different type of leadership than we are currently experiencing.