Dona Nobis Pacem
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen“. Ephesians 4:29
I was reading the local newspaper this week and I did something I vowed I would never do again: I read the letters to the editor.
The “Letters” section used to be one of my favorites, years ago. I like to hear both sides of an argument so I can decide for myself which has more merit. There were some well-written letters back then, many of them from one very prolific woman who had an opinion on just about everything, or so it seemed.
There were some letters from writers with far-flung ideas to be sure, but mostly the letters were thoughtful, made good points, and I could learn from them, even if I disagreed with the writer’s point of view.
Then something changed.
It was subtle at first, the vitriol that slipped in. It wasn’t in every letter and even when it was there, it was mostly an add-on, almost an afterthought, a snarky little comment tacked on at the end to shoot a tiny but stinging well-placed arrow at the writer’s opponents.
Then it grew. And spread.
Eventually, there was no contemplative posting of well-researched positions. There was only hate and poison. Writers insinuated, then came right out and stated, that anyone who does not share the same views as they must be morally bankrupt.
And I stopped reading the “Letters” section.
There is little civil discourse anymore, little thoughtful discussion, there are only bumper sticker slogans thrown around, someone else’s clever catchphrase that makes us feel self-satisfied when we use it at the expense of others.
Oh, I will engage in a political debate, especially a written one, where I have time to try out my arguments and craft my replies. I am that person who, when engaged in verbal wrangling, will always think of the killer response five minutes too late. As my husband of 41 years knows, I have no problem with discussions, even contentious ones.
But don’t call me names to make your point. Don’t assume that I must be your intellectual and ethical inferior because I don’t agree with you. Don’t sneer at me from your high horse.
The same self-righteous attitude that permeates social media has seeped into our editorial page, so I stopped reading.
I have tried to block influences that make me the worst version of myself. If I don’t hold my emotions in check, I tend towards cynicism and suspicion. I scoff, I mock, I am sardonic. My natural inclination toward playing the martyr takes over and I am easily offended.
That is not the person I want to be, so I try to avoid anything that triggers those responses.
I get to choose what impacts my state of mind. If I read letters dripping with contempt, I am giving the writer the power to affect me in a negative way and I choose not to give someone filled with animosity that ability.
I believe the resentment and enmity we feel towards those with views different from our own is not a coincidence. I think the seeds of hate have been deliberately sown by those who would control us.
If we are too busy pointing fingers at each other, we are oblivious to the real problems affecting our country and our world, the poverty, injustice, greed, bigotry, and everlasting strife which have become commonplace.
Let’s take a step away from behavior and language that denigrates those with views different from our own. Let’s progress beyond trite slogans and disparaging memes.
My goal is to cast seeds of kindness and mutual respect far and wide in the hope they will sprout and bear fruit. This post is the first seed. I will be looking for other opportunities. Maybe I will write a letter to the editor.
I am Blogging for Peace on November 4 and you can too. To find out how, please click here.
I am linking with Random-osity for The Good, The Random, The Fun, My Random Musings for Anything Goes, Esme Salon for Senior Salon, Purposeful Faith for RaRa link up, Mary Geisen Tell His Story, Bethere2day for Wordless Wednesday on a Tuesday, and Denyse Whelan Blogs for Life This Week.