I missed President Obama’s speech last night, but in looking at the transcript this morning, I was struck by the things he had to say about civility:
“What we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together… If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.”
I think that’s exactly right. I disagree with a lot of people (including President Obama a good portion of the time), but that doesn’t make those people my mortal enemies. Here’s hoping we Americans get better at disagreeing with one another civilly and respectfully. It’s a very important life-skill and one that is vital to the health of our democracy.