Screaming into the Void: What’s Lacking in our Civil Discourse

How I Remember It

Growing up, I didn’t know if my folks were Democrat or Republican, until I asked one day, probably when I was in high school. My mom told me that we were Democrats; no reason was given as to why except that the Republicans “just had so much money”. They never, ever discussed politics—even when Watergate was happening—at least not in front of us kids. It wasn’t until I married an AP Government teacher that I even began to understand the differences between conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat. 

Fast forward to 2020:

Nowadays, I have a very good understanding of the two parties and both what they traditionally stand for and what they have come to stand for according to mainstream media, specialized media, social media, and average Joe media. In my opinion, they have both moved as far from center as they can and have been hijacked by the furthest wings of their supporters. 

I long for a moderate party that supports my views which are a mix of (the best ideas, of course) of each party. That’s all a pipe dream, naturally, as the battle for America in this election commences. 

What modern-day politics has become is nothing but sound bites, video clips, and seeing who can shout the loudest. The articles, op-ed pieces, and books about this topic are legion. There is a complete and utter lack of civil discourse on ANY topic. Our “leaders” model this behavior for us as there is little-to-no bipartisan support for anything in Congress. Media outlets willfully present “facts” in ways which use all the fallacies of reasoning I used to teach about in my Theory of Knowledge class.

Read more about logical fallacies here:

Via my social media outlets, I have become hyper-aware that I have friends who are ultra-liberal and ultra-conservative. There are still a majority, thank goodness, of whose politics I am completely unaware. Still, in this vitriolic environment, politics is what loads of people are talking about—much more than they did 30 years ago. My own sweet parents, who never were political in the home in which I grew up, are consumed with this election. People everywhere have shifted from having an interest in politics to being upset daily by what is happening in our country. Please do not misunderstand—I am not advocating hiding one’s head in the sand. I am not advocating for you to not stand by your convictions. I’m not even saying that it’s bad to share your political views. I AM saying that we ALL need to rethink our interactions on the internet–especially those that are political in nature. The behavior of the average American toward politics has shifted dramatically since the advent of social media–and not in a good way.

Unfortunately, the form that “an interest in politics” takes on social media is simply SCREAMING INTO THE VOID. It seems that EVERYONE is angry. EVERYONE  is pointing a finger at someone else. EVERYONE is trying to make a point in the hopes of swaying others—sometimes shaming them—over to their point of view. THIS NEVER WORKS. When one is so convicted that their way is the only way and everything else is hooey, how can there be common ground?

Rather than having a logical debate or thoughtful conversation, people seem to want their voice heard BUT NO ONE IS LISTENING. No one is interested in hearing a different viewpoint (despite pleas to the contrary)—least of all to someone who disagrees with them. Trollers who just want to get into arguments for arguments’ sake are lurking in every comment section. Newsflash: No one is going to actually change their mind. All the screaming and stamping of feet just adds more chaos both to the ether and to our dinner tables.  No one likes to be preached at, yelled at, or to be treated with derision. If you are serious about changing someone’s mind, teach them by example. Do more practicing what you preach rather than preaching.

We recently watched “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix; what a sorry state of affairs. I highly recommend that you check it out and then take a good, long look in the mirror at what you are feeding your mind and how you are framing your thinking. The confirmation bias that most of us are guilty of engaging in when we choose a news source, the existence of malicious bots and other fake accounts, and the fact that we literally cannot believe what we SEE anymore, is sickening.

Click here for an article about how faked videos are so good that you think they’re real:

I try to keep my glass half-full

It doesn’t HAVE to be this way. Recently, my husband and I had a very thoughtful, considered conversation with another couple with whom we are friends. The discussion centered around mail-in voting. Between the 4 of us, at least 3 different opinions were shared on the topic. We offered up questions, possible scenarios, evidence for why we thought what we were thinking, analogies, and the like. NO ONE BECAME ANGRY. We didn’t come to a complete consensus, but did agree that the issue was perhaps more complicated than we had each considered on our own. We respect one another. We heard one another. There was no void. And there surely wasn’t any screaming. 

Discourse of this type is mostly lacking—certainly in our government—but also in our personal interactions, especially those on social media. It seems that those who aren’t screaming, are busy sneering at their fellow man. Both sides see the other as being incapable of logical thought or reasoning toward a logical outcome. In my own household, I lean a little bit one way and my husband leans a little bit the other. Mostly we agree. Still, in this climate, it is so very difficult to talk to my life-partner, the guy who makes me laugh, the father of my children, without it becoming heated. We have had to make a concerted effort to control our emotions when we discuss this mess—even though we mostly agree. Whew. 

Oh, how I wish that EVERYTHING, from what kind of coffee you drink to your favorite sports figure weren’t politicized. I long for a societal climate where respect is the byword and “public servant” is taken seriously and literally as a career choice. 

I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking that simply not re-electing this president will turn the tide back to civility. Unfortunately, he is not the only one guilty of petulant, vindictive behavior in Washington. Our screaming, sneering, and stamping goes much deeper than our elected officials–but they’re not helping.

If you build it 

There will be no civility in politics or otherwise if there is no energy spent on building relationships. This is my husband’s premise, and he is right. Relationships need to be repaired and forged across every damn aisle in society. By building respectful, healthy relationships, there is a prayer of affecting lasting change. Without relationships, THERE IS NO CHANGE. Without relationships, there is no hope for a different, better, great America. Let me be clear: you can differ on ANY issue and still not hate the person who differs from you. You can differ in your political views and still treat others as you wish to be treated. The Golden Rule: it’s a thing. 

 I plead with all of us to not scream, whether figuratively or literally, but to try to have meaningful, thoughtful conversations about today’s issues. Having these conversations face-to-face is paramount, as is not becoming angry. And, even if you aren’t talking about important issues, try to find the common ground to build some semblance of a relationship with those with whom you differ. You might just find out that you have more in common than you think. 

I’ll leave you with this: a list of people who got it right–they built relationships with those who differ politically from them and were the better for it:

PS—I am aware of the irony that my voice is another that’s just being lost in the void. 🙂

Will the Pandemic Change Us? Oh, How I Hope So!

There has been much written already about how this pandemic has and will continue to change us. As an eternal optimist, I am hopeful that we will be changed for the better, but know that often times our memories are woefully short. For those who are sick (or WILL become sick) and for those trying to heal them, this is a terrible, terrible time. For those who are “just” staying home, however, the time can be used for good.

Who Are We Without Our Busy-ness?

While difficult, many families can benefit from time together, more time outside taking walks, and just generally having their calendars cleared of “busy-ness.” 

The number of families out taking a walk together is unprecedented–even teenagers are along!

Knowing how to treasure time together is wonderful. Maybe now is the time to work on things we’ve neglected because of that unhealthy obsession with “busy-ness”—fitness, hobbies, reading, home improvements, and the like. Our propensity in the U.S. to over-schedule ourselves has been dashed with a metaphorical bucket of cold water. May we think twice before going back to the same level of mindless activity.


Here are a few more changes to our national psyche that I hope we keep as we eventually move past this crisis.

Thankfulness and Appreciation for the Work of Others

It goes without saying that we must have appreciation for those who put themselves in harm’s way for the greater good. Our healthcare workers, from those who work to keep hospitals safe and disinfected, to those who are doctors and nurses, are those whom we must profoundly thank in these times of crisis. Thank goodness that they have the calling to do what they do–anytime, for anyone. We are grateful.

I also see folks expressing thankfulness online to their child’s teachers. Those teachers are tasked with the very difficult job of continuing to engage young minds despite challenging circumstances. Of course there are the parents who have always been supportive of their child’s teachers, but the real change that I hope happens is for those who previously thought that teaching was for those who “can’t”. You remember that old trope? “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Well, this virus has hopefully shown a whole lot of doers that they can’t teach; teaching is an art, not a task for the uninspired. It, too, is a calling, not a job.

We must realize just how important ALL THE WORKERS are. There is no work that isn’t noble and necessary—whether it’s a need or something that makes life more enjoyable. In this pandemic atmosphere, everyday heroes are our checkout clerks at the grocery store, the janitors and custodians cleaning our schools and buildings for the eventual return of the workforce, and the delivery and warehouse persons who are somehow keeping the supply chain alive and well.

Thank goodness for all the workers who are keeping us supplied with essentials during this time of crisis.

There is so much honor in these jobs and more—the list is infinite. And how about the things we are missing? Our hairdressers, a favorite food server or bartender, our friends in the arts? All of humanity in its infinite variety makes this big blue marble tick and hum along. I hope I never hear again that a parent has unrealistic hopes for their child to go to a “good” college and get a “good” job. ALL jobs are good and necessary. There is HONOR in all work. There is prestige in work and there is importance. One need not have prestige to be important; misplaced prestige is bad for society. We would do well to remember this.

New Businesses and Ways to “Be”

Proving once again that American ingenuity is not dead, this pandemic has brought a new wave of jobs and unique approaches for connection and socialization. When we found out that we’d need to keep our kids learning at home, there was an onslaught on social media of interesting things to do—virtual tours of museums, doodling with Mo Willems, free exercise classes with the Fenix System, and on and on. Out of necessity, new jobs have sprung up: the delivery of prescriptions to homes, bread (and donuts!) delivery from our favorite bakery, Schneider’s in Westerville, virtual entertainment and socialization for nursing home residents, to name a few. We have also seen the glaring need for manufacturing to return to the United States. A global economy is good, but not at the expense of not being able to produce our own products both to be prepared and when under duress. Hopefully, a renewed interest in manufacturing and the industrial sector will find fertile ground in our communities.

Besides the business aspect, neighbors are reaching out to help one another in meaningful ways. My daughter is recently returned to Ohio from New York City. Before she left the city, she saw a kind lady posting flyers saying she was willing to run errands for the older people in their apt building.  The woman was organizing an army of volunteers to help in any way necessary. Here in Westerville, we have our own armies in place already: Rick Bannister organized our Neighborhood Bridges brigade in January of 2017

Neighborhood bridges seeks to connect community needs with community members who can meet those needs. It is an amazing program!

and has since spread the model to 25 other communities around the United States. We have the Westerville Area Resource Ministry which provides food and support to area residents. The challenge to which we must rise is to continue to do MORE than what we already had in place and to do it on an absolutely personal level.

Be a good neighbor, be a good daughter or son, be a good human being. 


Qualified Leadership in Times of Trouble

Lastly, we here in Ohio are being led through this critical time by two folks you might have heard of: Governor Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton. No matter your political affiliation, you have to admit that Governor DeWine has shown tremendous leadership. Early on, I read that Dr. Acton was the last person in the cabinet for DeWine to hire. He felt he had to search and search to get just the right person. Further, in previous administrations, the Director of Health wasn’t even a health professional. DeWine wanted to change that and have a bonafide physician in charge of health matters for our state.

Dr. Amy Acton and Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio issue the stay at home order on Monday, March 23, 2020.

It seems ludicrous that in 2020, actually having someone be QUALIFIED to lead in a position is revolutionary. Why WOULDN’T expertise in an area be an absolute requirement in order to hold an office in that area? The last way that I would like for us to change permanently would be for it to be a requirement for anyone holding a cabinet/leadership office in government, have to have EXPERIENCE, EXPERTISE, and CREDENTIALS for that position. In other words, the U.S. Secretary of Education would need to have experience working in public education before being able to lead the entire system. I’m sure there are other examples—that one just springs to mind for some reason.

We Must Keep our Heads Up

In closing, we will be okay. In some ways, the pandemic is like a market correction, but for social issues. We will get through this. On the other side, though? Can we make it look, feel, and be better than it was before? THAT is my challenge to you, me and everyone else.