Liberals Are Idiots and Conservatives Are Ignorant
On a recent tour my sister and I were conversing with a woman from Canada whom we had gotten to know during the tour. “I enjoy hearing you two talk to each other,” she told us. “You sound genteel.”
We immediately thought she was referring to our Southern accent, but she went on to explain that her daughter was attempting to teach her young child to be more genteel and not use words like “stupid”. So my sister and I looked at each other and said in unison, “It was our mother.”
What our friend from Canada was referring to was civility. Words like “idiot”, “stupid”, and “imp” were naughty words in our home when we were growing up. They were as bad as, if not worse than, curse words and were strictly forbidden. It was always very tempting, though, to call a sibling idiot, or stupid, or, my favorite, “you little imp”. But if my mother heard us, we would always be punished.
I still have an aversion to those words, or, more exactly, the misuse of those words. Some things are idiotic or stupid and should rightly be labeled so. Often, though, we use them to express our anger and/or impotence, as we did as children, so the misuse of these words often seems childish to me. They also seem to be expressions of lazy, intolerant, and closed minds. Not to mention arrogant. If someone doesn't agree with me they must be stupid, right? Referees and umpires, commentators, politicians, are frequently stupid, wacko, and lame-brained. It is so much easier to hurl these insults than come up with an intelligent response, to disagree civilly.
Being insulting and intolerant is not only hurtful to others but also limiting to us.
Political Discussions--Keeping It Civil
I notice incivility most often in the United States in our political discussions. Not the politicians only, but all of us. I notice it often online. I even notice it here on Hubpages. I am guilty of it myself sometimes. (It can be so tempting.)
I enjoy a good political discussion about issues and listen and read often to learn. Strong, passionate disagreements are all acceptable, but I immediately tune out and turn off anything that sounds uncivil, insulting, and childish. That rules out talk radio. It also rules out much online chatter. I make exceptions sometimes if something is really humorous.
Our friend from Canada said her three-year old granddaughter would sometimes put her head under the covers and mutter, “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!”, trying out the words her mother was forbidding. So if you're tempted to use insults, may I suggest you go put your head under the covers rather than clutter the airways or web with them.
Being insulting and intolerant is not only hurtful to others but also limiting to us. If we cut ourselves off from relationships with those who disagree with us, we are limiting our experiences.
There may be things we can learn from those who differ with us. They may differ not because they are stupid but because they have different life experiences and/or are at different places in their life. We can believe others to be wrong without labeling them stupid. All of our relationships do not need to be with like-minded people. If we're looking for a life partner, that may be a good criterion to use, but other relationships with those who differ can add richness to our lives.
And So It Goes
Using the logic of this essay, however, I suppose I would have to ask Al Franken to take back what he said about Rush Limbaugh—but I did make that allowance for humor.
This book by Al Franken was written when he was just a comedian and not a politician. His latest book, as a Senator, is a much more serious book, with just the right touch of humor. Just look at the title. Surely that is a joke.
Humor, especially the self-deprecating kind, can sometimes help to keep discussions more civil.
- How I Became a Democrat
A Southern woman explains her long political journey and how the civil rights movement affected her political decisions.