In kindergarten, five and six year old children learn the basics of civility. They may learn simple skills such as the alphabet and numbers, but the priority throughout the kindergarten year is to teach young children how to treat one another with kindness and how to behave in various uncomfortable situations. When I was in kindergarten, I learned how to share, how to act when I didn’t get my way, and how to converse with people politely (even when I wasn’t particularly pleased with them).
As I watch the news headlines, it seems as if many of us need to go back to kindergarten. It seems as if we are competing with one another to determine who can say the most nasty and shocking thing. Celebrities and politicians are not the only ones participating in these mudslinging competitions. The general public, too, is using its voice to broadcast their displeasure of the government, their neighbors and the “opposition’s” ideas. Our behavior would certainly not earn us a gold star or a trip to the treasure box if we were students in my kindergarten class many years ago. The only thing that type of behavior would earn us is a timeout or even a dreaded trip to the principal’s office.
It seems to me that we need to return to our kindergarten classrooms and get a refresher on the finer points of civility that we obviously missed the first go-around. Due to our hectic mud-slinging schedules, I have graciously condensed the most vital missing pieces of information into three quick lessons. It is my dearest wish that these three lessons will be easy to remember and will be swiftly applied before we shame our kindergarten teachers.
1. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all
Today, it is far too common for people to post horrifying messages on social media, namely Twitter. It is one thing for someone to share their opinions with a group of close friends, but it is another thing entirely for people to publish these opinions and enraged messages on the internet for all to see. This is not a partisan problem. Both sides of the aisle are taking their political disagreements too far.
It is disheartening that we now live in a society that disregards civility entirely. It ought to be common sense that a minor celebrity should not say that he wants members of the President’s family and administration to be kidnapped, tortured etc. It can be easy for people to post such horrible, threatening things while cowering behind their phone screens, but it shouldn’t be so easy for us to hit “post” on a message like that.
This is so simple, yet is so often ignored. It is fine, and even encouraged to disagree with other people. We are all entitled to our disparate opinions, so we are bound to not agree with one another all of the time. However, these disagreements should be transformed into healthy debate, not yelling matches or Twitter wars.
2. The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
I would like to say that conservatives are, in general, role models of civility, but that just isn’t the case. Conservatives are just as guilty as liberals are of transforming their political opponents into personal ones.
Now I hate to be a party pooper, but throwing fecal matter at the object of your frustration is not the right way to voice your opinion or present your distress. Instead, you should use your words; and when you use your words you should not call anyone names or use language that would make even the most hardened sailor blush.
Again, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but harassing people in public (or private) places does nothing to further your agenda or encourage others to adopt your viewpoint. Additionally, abusing your lofty position to attack political opponents is what your kindergarten teacher would have accurately called bullying. We have to take a stand for what is right and not tolerate bullying.
3. Be a good sport: Win or lose
It takes a strong individual to lose with dignity and grace. When you lose a game, you are expected to concede in a demonstration of sportsmanlike conduct. Likewise, when you lose an election, you are expected to congratulate the victor and reconcile with the fractured electorate. The 2016 Presidential election is over. Yet many people, identifying themselves with various positions along the political spectrum, are acting as if the votes have not yet been tallied and the role of President is still up for grabs.
We must keep in mind that the midterm elections are quickly approaching. As they do, and as the American people cast their votes, I hope that conservatives and liberals alike will accept the outcome with grace and reconcile the differences that are dividing us as a nation. I’d like to see us be a nation that treats people with civility, regardless of their political views. Most of all, I want us to remember the lessons that we learned in kindergarten.